Bernie Sanders is banking on a California miracle to propel him to the Democratic nomination, which is why his decline in fundraising could not have come at a worse time.
In no state is money more crucial for a candidate than in California. Its sheer size, in both geography and population, makes running here a ridiculously expensive endeavor. Its media markets are some of the most costly in the world, and candidates who try to sidestep big ad buys typically fail to convey their message to key segments of the electorate.
So now is a poor time for a precipitous drop in cash flow for Sanders. Amid a string of big losses to front-runner Hillary Clinton in April, Sanders’ fundraising for the month fell to $25.8 million — which would seem a significant amount, except that in both February and March, he raised nearly $20 million more.
At the same time, he has been burning through his cash far more quickly than Clinton, outspending her in many of the big states he lost. Sanders has not yet reported his spending for April, but he likely spent well more than he raised based on the amount of airtime purchased, the size of his campaign’s payroll, and the other expenses the campaign has in a typical month.
A California victory is a critical part of the Sanders plan to flip superdelegates into his column. If Sen. Sanders can’t win The Golden State then even his narrow narrow narrow path to the Democratic nomination will be gone.
The Sanders campaign has raised big money and spent big money. The Sanders campaign has outspent the Clinton campaign in every month in 2016. The Sanders campaign has spent more money on advertising than the Clinton campaign. Those big rallies that Sen. Sanders holds aren’t cheap. Rent alone costs the campaign tens of thousands of dollars for each venue. In February, Sanders spent $1.6 million on costs associated with his large rallies.
The Sanders strategy has been a combination of big rallies, comprehensive grassroots efforts to get out the vote, and loads of advertising. Sen. Sanders may have to try to win the California primary with only one of those three tools in his tool box.
If Sen. Sanders is going to pull off a California miracle, he is going to have to do it with hard work and elbow grease, because the splashy big dollar push may not be an option in the nation’s biggest primary.