Kamala Harris’ exit from the Democratic presidential primary has set off a stampede among her former rivals, who are moving fast to improve their campaigns’ fortunes by winning over donors who supported the California senator.
In New York, former Vice President Joe Biden, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg are working to book get-to-know-you meetings with her supporters, donors said. In the early voting state of South Carolina, one prominent Harris fundraiser and surrogate said nearly every campaign had reached out to gauge his interest. And in the San Francisco Bay Area, Harris’ home base, a Biden fundraiser says he sent out emails the day she left the race to get an edge on the competition.
Harris’ decision to end her once-promising campaign prompted an outpouring from supporters, who lamented that the exit of the third black woman to ever run for president made what had been a historically diverse field less so. But even as they mourned, the fierce nature of a primary stirred intense competition among those who saw a potential gain in her exit.
For Booker and Biden, the donor courtship offers an opportunity to regain lost ground and bring in a fresh stream of cash with two months until the Iowa caucuses. But for Buttigieg, who is already a leading fundraiser and has proved wildly popular with donors, it would allow him to put further distance between himself and his rivals.
Silicon Valley donor Steve Westly, who raised millions for President Barack Obama and is now helping Biden, sent out emails Tuesday wooing Harris supporters.
“Presidential campaigns are not delicate affairs. It’s a race and it’s about moving as quickly as you can and making the ask,” Westly said. “Kamala has a lot of strength in California and we are going to go after as many people as we can. We won’t get all of them, but I believe we will get the majority.”
Biden will be in California next week for a series of fundraisers in Los Angeles and the Bay Area. His campaign is encouraging Harris donors to attend, or donate before the year’s end, said one person involved with the campaign’s state operation.
They’re receiving a positive response so far, the person said, but the donors have also heard from the campaigns of Buttigieg, Booker and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the person said. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive campaign matters.
The Biden campaign has also discussed having the former vice president make direct outreach to California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who had been backing Harris.
Yet just because the campaigns are thirsting for new donors doesn’t mean Harris’ supporters are ready.
Bakari Sellers, who helped Harris raise money and was one of her most prominent TV surrogates, said he had been contacted by representatives of every campaign except Warren’s and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s. Sellers, however, said he was still in mourning and taking his time first.
“Everybody is asking me where Kamala supporters are going, and the only thing I can firmly tell you is that we are going to the bar,” Sellers said.
Warren, who has mostly sworn off the big-dollar fundraisers that many donors inhabit, invoked the exits of Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand from the Democratic campaign to elicit financial support and attack the two billionaires who remain, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and California businessman Tom Steyer.
“Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand — two women senators who, together, won more than 11.5 million votes in their last elections — have been forced out of this race, while billionaires Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg have been allowed to buy their way in,” read a Tuesday fundraising email from Warren’s campaign. “Running for president shouldn’t be a passion project for bored billionaires.”
Robert Zimmerman, a prominent New York donor who has given to multiple candidates, said a light touch is the best approach with Harris’ supporters.
“The (remaining) campaigns have to make it clear there is room at the table and that new supporters are going to be listened to and respected and included,” he said. “Politics are about addition, not subtraction or division.”
Campaigning in Ames, Iowa, on Thursday, Biden appeared to be following similar advice. He made clear that he held no ill feelings toward Harris, despite a devastating and instantly viral attack she made against his record on school busing during a Democratic debate this summer.
Biden said he would consider her for vice president if he won the nomination — or attorney general or the Supreme Court if he won the general election.
Reminded of the attack she made against him, Biden said, “I’m not good at keeping hard feelings.”