Montana Gov. Steve Bullock's campaign for president said Friday it has raised more than $2 million since he joined the race in mid-May.
That puts him distantly behind front-runners like former Vice President Joe Biden, whose campaign reporting raising $21.5 million after announcing in April, and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who said he raised $24.8 million in the full second quarter. But University of Montana political analyst and professor Lee Banville said there could be some good news in the numbers.
"The word that comes to mind is respectable," Banville said Friday of Bullock's total. Though Bullock formed a political action committee to raise money to explore a run two years ago, the fundraising numbers reported Friday are only for his presidential campaign and date back to when he announced his run May 14, joining a field of what's now two dozen Democrats seeking to be their party's nominee.
Banville said Bullock's fundraising numbers and the measure of success they show can be compared to someone like Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, another lower-tier candidate like Bullock. Bennet raised $2.8 million in the second quarter, but he comes from a much larger and wealthier state than Bullock. He also had the ability to transfer money to his presidential campaign from his senatorial campaign account, something Bullock's numbers don't include as padding.
Bullock's campaign Friday said in a press release it was "excited" not only about the "grassroots support," citing money coming from all 50 states, but also about adding a fifth poll to qualify the governor for the second round of Democratic National Committee debates in Denver at the end of the month. Bullock missed the first debates last month in Miami after failing to register enough support in polls or donations.
"I was disappointed that I wasn't on that first stage," Bullock said on MSNBC Friday morning. " … But I'm excited that even six weeks into this race, five different polls have me qualifying for that Detroit stage."
Making the debates is a do-or-die for Bullock's campaign, Banville said.
"He has to get on that stage. If he wants to be a candidate, he has to be in these debates. He has to be in that mix or he'll never be a serious candidate," Banville said.
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The DNC isn't expected to say who made the cut for the second round of debates until later this month.
Bullock also said he was "pleased" about raising money from every state and raising the amount of money he did in a "compressed" time.
"It's not necessary about who raises the most money. It's ultimately about can you get your message out to folks, and I think we're off to a real good start," Bullock said, adding he has 24 staff in Iowa.
In the absence of national name recognition and making the first debates, Bullock has zeroed in on Iowa, spending the Fourth of July campaigning there. Iowa is the first state in the nation to weigh in on the Democratic presidential field, holding a caucus in February.
"Iowa's always been traditionally sort of that great sorting hat which can take a big field and really narrow it down," Bullock said on MSNBC.
Banville said pulling support from all 50 states indicates there's at least some interest in a Bullock candidacy from not just the inner-mountain West, but the coasts as well. More details on exactly how much he raised and from where likely won't be available until campaign finance reports are due to the Federal Election Commission on July 15.
Those reports will also show if Bullock has drawn the attention of influential Democratic donors who could bring PAC funding.
"That could indicate he's a serious contender among the Democratic elites," Banville said.