Tom Steyer spent more than $250 million of his own money running for President—enough to buy 6,200 Teslas—before dropping out Saturday after a distant third-place finish in South Carolina. His money didn’t win him a single delegate.
After making a killing investing in coal, the former hedge-fund manager found climate religion and has spent the last decade bankrolling progressive causes and candidates. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
He spent nearly $150 million to boost Democratic candidates during the 2014 and 2018 midterms, perhaps hoping they would someday return the favor. He also spent liberally on TV ads calling for President Trump’s impeachment. That may have spurred House Democrats, though impeachment seems to have helped Mr. Trump’s poll ratings.
Mr. Steyer’s presidential campaign never did take off, perhaps because voters want more than a climate activist for the job. His spending did help him qualify for the debates, but he never broke much higher than 3% in national polls. While other candidates camped out in Iowa and New Hampshire during January, he made a long play for South Carolina. He spent some $22 million on media in the state, put legislators on his payroll, and financed local businesses. He captured only 13% of the black vote, according to the exit poll, and 11.3% of the total primary vote.
Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren say billionaires are trying to buy the election, and the evil of money in politics is a core progressive belief these days. Perhaps Michael Bloomberg will vindicate their point as he reaches the ballot on Tuesday for the first time, having spent more than $500 million to rise in the polls. But he does also bring 12 years as mayor of New York City as a credential, though he has struggled in debates.
Money is crucial in modern politics to deliver a message and inform voters. But Democratic primary voters may be proving that money can’t buy the Presidency.
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