Tom Steyer, a billionaire hedge fund manager and philanthropist, as he’s being described, officially joined the campaign for the 2020 Democratic nomination on Tuesday. Despite earlier reports and statements indicating Steyer would remain on the sidelines, funneling money into his preferred candidates, it appears that Steyer was not content to sit out the primary without getting his voice in the mix as a declared candidate.
As CNN reports, Tom Steyer is a storied name in political circles, a Democratic equivalent of something akin to the Koch brothers on the Republican side. Steyer’s big issue is climate change, though he supports a myriad of progressive causes, and he’s not been one to shy away from calling for the impeachment of President Trump:
Steyer has operated as a funding force in Democratic politics in recent years, bankrolling candidates and organizations that promote liberal causes, including the impeachment of President Donald Trump. Steyer’s net worth reached $1.6 billion this year according to Forbes, a fortune he began amassing in 1986 when he launched his hedge fund Farallon Capital.
The 2018 House races, which Steyer spent over $100 million on, marked the third consecutive election cycle in which Steyer spent millions supporting Democratic candidates. But it’s Steyer’s efforts to impeach Trump which have made him the most visible, starring in self-funded television commercials in which he calls on Congress to remove the President from office.
Steyer joins a crowded Democratic primary that has already participated in the first round of primary debates.
With a field this large, even with a fortune of his own to spend on a campaign, it’s unlikely that Steyer will gain any real traction with voters. He’s a money man for Democrats and has never attempted to try his hand at being an actual candidate.
Will Steyer make the next debate?
Short answer: Probably not. Steyer literally has until July 17 to make his mark on the campaign by coming up with poll numbers that would give him at least one percent support in three separate polls or he must meet the fundraising requirement instead. That would seem easy for a billionaire except the fundraising threshold calls for 65,000 individual donations with at least 200 unique donors from different states. The chance of either threshold being met in that short amount of time, despite Steyer’s personal fortune, is slim to none.
Self-funded billionaires need not apply
As CNN also notes, Steyer’s money may actually put him at a disadvantage in a field which is emphasizing grassroots fundraising and trying to shy away from corporate money and funds from wealthy donors:
And Steyer will face immediate resistance by the already-crowded Democratic field. The New York Times reported that Steyer has pledged to spend $100 million on his bid, putting him directly at odds with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has sworn off private, high-dollar fundraising events during her primary campaign, and vocally criticized the political influence of billionaires and corporations.
Just imagine a debate stage where Steyer is forced to essentially apologize for being in the top one-percent of income earners next to candidates who will spend their time attacking “millionaires and billionaires” for rigging the system.
Steyer’s bid is probably nothing more than a chance at self-promotion since it’s unlikely he’ll appear on a debate stage or pose a real threat to winning the Democratic nomination.
Rep. Joe Sestak also announces candidacy
Another one we missed in late June, around the time of the first debate, is Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Sestak. Politico reported on Sestak’s announcement back on June 23:
Sestak, in a video released on his campaign website, drew heavily on his naval career, saying he “wore the cloth of the nation for over 31 years in peace and war, from the Vietnam and Cold War eras, to Afghanistan and Iraq and the emergence of China.”
“Our country desperately needs a president with a depth of global experience and an understanding of all the elements of our nation’s power, from our economy and our diplomacy to the power of our ideals and our military, including its limitation,” he added. “So that, when faced with the decision on whether to use our military, our commander in chief will know how it will end before deciding if it is wise to begin.”
Sestak also referred to President Donald Trump in his announcement.
“The president is not the problem,” he said. “He is the symptom of the problem people see in a system that is not fair and accountable to the people.”
Sestak has been basically absent from the campaign in terms of having an impact. His polling is practically non-existent, and this late entrance into the field means he’s already well behind in terms of fundraising an organization.