WASHINGTON — When I paid a visit back in June to the campaign headquarters of Democratic presidential contender Andrew Yang, the candidate and his team were riding high. He’d qualified for the first and second DNC debates. The Yang Gang, his fervent online following, was growing by the day. What was lacking was the lifeblood of any serious presidential operation: money. (Read my in-depth story of Yang and his insurgent presidential campaign.)
Fundraising was the Yang campaign’s “weak spot,” as the campaign’s finance director, Dylan Enright, told me. Unlike the governors and senators in the race, Yang had started from zero: no existing email list, no donor base from a previous campaign. He’d raised $1.7 million in the first three months of 2019 and $2.8 million in the second quarter — respectable totals but far behind the top candidates in the race. “Every day it’s how much money do we get in the door,” Enright said.
Yang, whose passel of policy ideas includes a flagship proposal to give every adult a basic income of $1,000 a month, had caught fire online but had a lackluster performance at the first DNC debate in June. He went into night two of last week’s debate needing a strong showing. And despite having the least speaking time of any candidate onstage that night, Yang’s performance — including a closing statement that criticized the “reality TV” phoniness of presidential debates — appears to have given his campaign the fundraising jolt it needed.
According to figures his campaign provided to Rolling Stone, Yang raised nearly $1.1 million in the five days after debate, with an average donation of $27.63. What’s more striking, though, is how many of those donors were giving to Yang for the first time. Of the 38,376 unique donors who gave in that five-day window after the debate, 34,602 of them — nearly 87 percent — had not previously given to Yang’s campaign. Most of Yang’s post-debate haul — almost $930,000 of it — came from those new donors, whose average donation was just shy of $27.
“Andrew had a great night and a breakout moment on that stage,” Yang spokesman Randy Jones tells Rolling Stone. “He may have gotten the least time again but he made the most sense. We look forward to round 3 in Houston.”
Yang has already met the threshold of 130,000 unique donors needed to qualify for the third and fourth Democratic debates this fall. He has also hit 2 percent in three qualifying polls and needs to get one more 2-percent or higher poll to make the stage for the September and October debates.