Bennet raises $2.1 million in third quarter, pledges to stay in until New Hampshire

Michael Bennet (D-CO) speaks with MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell during a panel at The Texas Tribune Festival on September 28, 2019 in Austin, Texas. The festival held over a dozen panels and speaking events with democratic presidential candidates as well as prominent Texas republicans. (Photo by Sergio Flores/Getty Images)

DENVER — Sen. Michael Bennet raised $2.1 million in the third quarter of 2019, his campaign said, a sum that will likely make him one of the lowest-fundraising Democrats in the 2020 presidential field.

The number is down slightly from the $2.8 million that Colorado’s Democratic senator had raised in the second quarter.

But he and his advisers, fueled by the feeling that they can run an inexpensive and focused campaign without the kind of money other candidates have in the bank, say he plans to stay in the race until at least the New Hampshire primary on Feb. 11 and to run a race focused on pushing policy differences with the party’s left flank.

“I’m in this race to win the nomination and defeat Trump,” Bennet said. “So there’s no doubt I’ll be at the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary.”

Shannon Beckham, Bennet’s spokeswoman, said the campaign will be in the race until New Hampshire because they are running a “lean, strong campaign” that has the “resources to compete and win.”

“Instead of allowing the DNC’s flawed debate criteria to dictate this race, we’re communicating directly with voters and caucusgoers,” Beckham said.

Noting that 86% of the campaign’s contributions are $25 or less and 98% of them are $100 or less, she added: “They believe in Michael’s agenda, one that will not only unite Democrats, but also win back the 9 million Obama-Trump voters we need to defeat Trump and take back the Senate.”

Despite entering the fourth quarter with only $1.8 million in the bank, Bennet has run a relatively aggressive — albeit small — campaign.

Bennet put up two TV ads in Iowa in September as part of an at least $1 million ad buy, one a biography spot in which he embraces his moderate position on health care and another — titled “Truth” — that goes hard against “Medicare for All,” with Bennet saying straight to the camera that a “health care plan that starts with kicking people off their coverage makes no sense.”

Bennet’s poll numbers have not followed his ad spending, though.

He remains one of the lower-polling Democrats in the field, not registering among likely Iowa Democratic caucusgoers in a poll released last month. Only 8% of that group said they were actively considering him.

Bennet has also struggled to make the debate stage, failing to qualify for the September debate after making the June and July contests.

Bennet, unlike former candidate Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, did not spend millions to try to drum up enough support to qualify for the debates, a strategic decision that an adviser defended.

“There was a decision made early on that the debates were not going to be his path,” the adviser said. “And I think the way it has proven out is the debates haven’t made it for anyone. Maybe you get a little bounce afterwards … but it doesn’t seem to be sticking.”

The adviser continued to say Bennet, despite his low poll numbers, is eyeing a strong showing in Iowa and plans to stay in the race until New Hampshire.

“For him … the do or die moment is Iowa” on Feb. 3, the adviser concluded. “That is where we put everything.”

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