As Elizabeth Warren’s campaign developed its organizing strategy this winter, it spent big to bring on a whopping 161 staffers — nearly twice as many as her closest rival in the Democratic presidential primary.
The early hiring spree, which cost Warren’s campaign nearly $1.2 million in salary plus more on related expenses, amounts to a big bet on what it will take to win the 2020 presidential race. The buildup had Warren spending money almost as fast as she raised it at a time of year when presidential campaigns traditionally hoard their cash, according to new campaign finance filings. But the decision sheds new light on the priorities and strategy behind Warren’s campaign, which believes organization in the early-voting states could make the difference next year.
And it wasn’t just Warren placing a wager. Kamala Harris’ shock-and-awe first week in the race culminated with a big gamble: a highly produced rally in Oakland that cost the campaign more than a half-million dollars — but drew 22,000 people and saturation media coverage, providing an early jolt for her standing. Nearly every campaign spent big on digital advertising in recent months, bidding for online donor support that may not take off for months.
“The risk is you build it and they don’t come,” said Steve Elmendorf, a Democratic strategist and presidential campaign veteran. He doubts all 19 Democratic campaigns will be around later this year.