- Special Projects
This Saturday will mark the 100th day of Tulsi Gabbard’s campaign for president.
The question now is, how many more days before she throws in the red, white and blue towel? Because the candidate of aloha is getting little of it from voters and donors nationwide.
The most recent public opinion polls have Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders still leading the Democratic primary pack with Gabbard, the U.S. representative from Hawaii, far behind in the 1% range with the likes of Andrew Yang, Julian Castro and a half-dozen other declared or would-be candidates.
Meanwhile, Gabbard’s presidential campaign pulled in $1.95 million during the first quarter of 2019, far less than established candidates like Sanders and charismatic contenders like Beto O’Rourke and Kamala Harris. And they all entered the race after Gabbard announced she was running Jan. 11.
Gabbard’s rejection of political action committee money no doubt limits her cash haul. The FEC reports show she raised just over $1 million from small donors giving less than $200.
But that pales in comparison to Sanders, who took in more than $18 million in the first quarter of 2019. CNN reported that 84% of individual contributions to the Vermont senator and democratic socialist were for less than $200.
Gabbard’s biggest donor was herself: She transferred $2.5 million into her presidential account from her congressional campaign committee. Put another way, a lot of people who contributed to Gabbard’s previous campaigns for the U.S. House of Representatives are now paying for Tulsi 2020, as her campaign is called.
Gabbard’s FEC filing for her Tulsi Now committee shows that she has appeal across the country in terms of campaign contributions. But not much comes from Hawaii. Of the 2,078 itemized receipts for Gabbard, only 114 — or about 6% — came from Hawaii.
In addition to her parents Mike and Carol Gabbard, who donated the maximum to their daughter, Hawaii donations include $1,000 from Danny Kaleikini, who is identified as “Ambassador of Aloha” on FEC receipt disclsoures. Lois Mitsunaga, a structural engineer with donor-friendly Mitsunaga and Associates, gave $2,700.
Gabbard has not been a passive campaigner. She has spent a number of days each in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and California. She was in Alabama for Bloody Sunday remembrances. And she has eight “meet and greets” scheduled this week back in Iowa and appearances Friday and Saturday in New Hampshire.
She says she has reached the threshold of 65,000 individual donors needed to participate in the Democratic debates.
But the media are not paying attention. An April 5 story in The New York Times mapping out where Democratic candidates had been in March did not include Gabbard, even though she had been in some of the same places as other candidates.
The Times did mention Gabbard on Sunday. But it was in an article titled, “The Many Reasons to Run for President When You Probably Don’t Stand a Chance.”
Gabbard made some news when she criticized the U.S. Justice Department’s indictment of Julian Assange, saying it puts the U.S. government on a “dangerous and slippery slope” in its treatment of journalists and all Americans.
But the critique rings hollow for a politician who often does not respond to media requests and who, in a plea for campaign donations just last month, accused the “mainstream media” of “anti-Tulsi bias” and ignoring or smearing her campaign.
That’s rich for someone who has appeared on national television more than 100 times since being elected to Congress, according to tallies kept by CQ’s Newsmaker.
To her credit, Gabbard has honed her message as the candidate of peace. She talked about that with Chris Matthews on MSNBC recently and used it in a pitch for contributions Sunday:
Tulsi’s run for president is rooted in the belief that our country urgently needs a commander in chief who is willing to be our warrior for peace, and who will stand up to a corrupt foreign policy establishment and military industrial complex, end regime change wars, halt the advance of a new Cold War and — most importantly — bring about a new era of peace and prosperity for every single one of us.
The problem for Gabbard is that foreign policy is not the defining issue of 2020. It’s who can beat Donald Trump. And the answer to that question is wide open.
The latest Democratic flavor of the month is Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana. Buttigieg’s meteoric rise has got to gall Gabbard. Like her, he is a military veteran. He is also younger than Gabbard and a Rhodes Scholar and a graduate of Harvard and Oxford.
And he’s gay.
Gabbard is now an LGBT rights supporter, but has been criticized for espousing anti-gay rights sentiments earlier in her political career.
Meanwhile, Sanders is hot, having released 10 years of tax returns, unlike Trump (and, as of yet, Gabbard).
Anything could happen to change the dynamic of the race, of course.
Gabbard could give a boffo performance in the debates. Vice President Biden could say and do more inappropriate things. Trump might bomb Iran or invade Venezuela. Seventeen of the 18 Democrats (and counting) currently running could drop out en masse.
Or maybe Tulsi Gabbard might decide that representing Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District isn’t such a bad gig after all.
That’s certainly the view of state Sen. Kai Kahele, who is gunning for the job with a quarter of a million bucks on hand and endorsements from heavy hitters.
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