The race for cash in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary is reaching a frenetic peak this weekend with a dozen fund-raisers on both coasts, as presidential hopefuls rush to vacuum up $2,800 checks — the maximum amount individuals can give for the primary by law — before the first quarterly fund-raising deadline of the campaign at midnight on Sunday.
But the candidates don’t want to discuss any of this.
They are instead trying to pull off a delicate balancing act. Publicly, the 2020 hopefuls are all about attracting low-dollar donors, trying to prove their grass-roots appeal and populist bona fides by touting large numbers of small donations — an ascendant force in Democratic politics. But privately, most Democrats also badly need the big checks and are still going behind closed doors to woo the wealthy, whose money is critical to pay for campaign staff, travel and advertising.
As a result, a traditional part of presidential races early on — candidates trumpeting big-money and well-connected contributors as a show of political strength — has gone virtually underground, the invisible primary turning truly invisible. The jockeying for major donors remains as intense as ever, but the usual campaign announcements of powerhouse finance committees and boldfaced bundler lists have all but disappeared. Even some online R.S.V.P. pages for fund-raisers don’t identify the wealthy backers anymore.