Tom Steyer, the billionaire hedge fund manager and Democratic ‘super donor’, secured a spot in the October Democratic debate following the release of a Nevada poll Sunday night.
Steyer announced his bid in June along with his plans to spend $100 million of his own money on the race–more than the top 5 candidates had raised in the entire quarter. Since then he’s spent $13 million dollars on his campaign, with much of that going to advertising in areas the DNC qualifying polls were being conducted.
Despite the massive advertising push, prior to Sunday Steyer had only met the approval threshold on 2 of 3 required polls. leading many to assume (or perhaps hope) he would be unable to qualify for the third debate.
Underestimating Steyer would be a mistake. At this time in 2015, another billionaire’s presidential bid was also underestimated.
In fact, Steyer’s strategy is incredibly similar to Trump’s. His message hits all of the populist notes, painting himself as an outsider willing to challenge the status quo. It’s a message that has been engineered with all the finesse one would expect from an army of highly paid consultants. Out of context, it’s convincing.
Out of context is also the way most voters will hear it. Steyer’s low name recognition means to-date most people’s only information about him has come from his own advertisements. Aside from a hostile question from the debate moderator, it’s unlikely he will be pressed in the debate. Steyer’s willingness to write checks to the Democratic party means fellow candidates have been hesitant to criticize him.
Will Americans will be willing to trade one billionaire for another? Only time will tell. Expect Steyer to come out swinging in the October debate.