Pete Buttigieg had the single biggest fundraising day of his 2020 campaign on Monday, according to an aide to the South Bend, Indiana, mayor, receiving a significant boost after a widely heralded performance during a CNN town hall.
A series of top Democrats from across the party’s political spectrum touted Buttigieg’s hour on the CNN stage over the last 24 hours, arguing that the little-known mayor deserves a shot at the presidency because of what he displayed during the event moderated by CNN’s Jake Tapper.
According to the Buttigieg aide, the mayor raised more than $600,000 from over 22,200 donations in the 24 hours after the CNN town hall. The number is even more significant, the aide said, because the committee employs 20 staffers, lean when compared to other Democratic operations.
“I’m thrilled by the support we’ve received over the last day,” Buttigieg said in a statement. “We’re not accepting corporate PAC money and we don’t have the gilded fundraising base that comes with being a more established figure in Washington, so grassroots fundraising will be crucial for this effort.”
He added: “It’s clear there’s a real appetite for a new kind of messenger in our party, and I am working hard to seek new audiences and further expand our growing base.”
Top aides from the exploratory committee furiously looked to capitalize on the town hall the minute the mayor stepped off the stage. Buttigieg even taped a 20-second plea backstage at The Moody Theater in Austin, Texas.
“It felt great and I want to thank you for tuning in,” Buttigieg said. “If you like what you saw, if you want to make sure we are on the debate stage, I hope you will encourage a friend to chip (in) whatever they would like to.”
Buttigieg, in a sign that he knew at the end of the town hall that he had performed well, asked donors live on CNN to donate to his committee. He was the only candidate to ask for donations from the stage among those who appeared in the three hours of town halls; the other candidates were former Rep. John Delaney and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.
For candidates like Buttigieg who are not dominating public polls — a recent CNN poll of Iowa showed the mayor garnering 1% of the wide-open field — donations will be critical to get on the debate stage given new rules outlined by the Democratic National Committee. In order to qualify for the first two debates, candidates must meet 1% or more in three separate DNC-approved polls or rake in campaign donations from at least 65,000 unique donors, with a minimum of 200 unique donors per state in at least 20 states.
Buttigieg, 37, used his hour on CNN to burnish his liberal policy credentials and a composure that belies his age, and delivered a series of crowd-pleasing lines when he slammed President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and the Trump administration.
“How would he allow himself to become the cheerleader for the porn star presidency? Is it that he stopped believing in scripture when he started believing Donald Trump?” Buttigieg asked of Pence, who he worked closely with during the vice president’s time as governor of Indiana. “I don’t know. I don’t know.”
Democrats responded glowingly: Reviews of his performance on social media were laudatory and he got the best reception of the night inside the theater.
“I have rarely seen a candidate make better use of televised Town Hall than @PeteButtigieg is on @CNN tonight,” former top adviser to President Barack Obama David Axelrod said on Twitter. “Crisp, thoughtful and relatable. He’ll be a little less of a long shot tomorrow.”