Sen. Cory Booker’s 2020 presidential campaign is facing a do-or-die moment.
The New Jersey Democrat will drop out of the 2020 race if he cannot meet a steep fundraising goal of $1.7 million over the next 10 days, Booker campaign manager Addisu Demissie told reporters on Saturday.
“We got in this race to win it,” Demissie said, “and if we cannot raise the $1.7 million to scale up our operation, then we don’t believe that we are going to be in a position to compete for the nomination.”
Booker’s urgent fundraising appeal comes as other Democratic campaigns are aggressively building out their operations, and with the Democratic National Committee poised to raise the polling and donor thresholds for the November debates.
Although Booker’s campaign is “not out of money nor are we at risk of running out of money,” Demissie said, meeting the fundraising target is “about the trajectory of our fundraising and our ability to use money now to continue to build the organization we need to win.”
“And I can’t underscore enough,” he added, “we’re trying to win.”
Speaking to CNN’s Jessica Dean on Saturday, Booker called the fundraising goal “a decisive moment for our campaign.”
“If you believe in my voice and want it on the stage and want it part of this process, if you believe in me as the nominee this is the time,” he said, “because if we can’t raise this $1.7 million we’re gonna have to make the tough decisions that I think any campaign that doesn’t have a pathway to victory should make.”
Booker and 16 other presidential candidates will take the stage Saturday at the Polk County Steak Fry, a major event on the Iowa political calendar that is expected to draw more than 12,000 attendees.
It’s the sort of event where Booker could shine, having garnered praise for his Democratic debate performances and appearances at candidate cattle calls throughout the summer. But he has so far failed to translate that into a boost for his campaign, which has stalled in the low single digits in polling.
Booker has also lagged in fundraising behind the field’s top tier during the previous two quarters, putting even more pressure on the campaign to post strong numbers in the third quarter.
Demissie said the campaign decided to take the extraordinary step of publicizing their fundraising shortfall because “the status quo, frankly, wasn’t working for us in this race.” He said he believes other campaigns are in a similar position, “but we’re saying it out loud.”
Breathless fundraising appeals are not uncommon among political campaigns, but Demissie stressed in his memo that the dire warning about the state of Booker’s campaign wasn’t merely a “stunt.”
“This is a real, unvarnished look under the hood of our operation at a level of transparency unprecedented in modern presidential campaigns,” he wrote.
Booker has already qualified for the October Democratic presidential debate, which will be moderated by CNN and The New York Times. But the DNC is expected to soon announce higher polling and donor thresholds for the November debate – a move that is already drawing criticism from some Democrats.
“It is completely stupid that candidates like Cory Booker have to spend money to meet the essentially random debate requirements that the DNC has created,” tweeted Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress. “Those metrics should not get more restrictive.”