Billionaire Tom Steyer has topped the $100 million he once vowed to spend on winning the Democratic presidential nomination, amid a sudden surge in early-voting states.
In a startling twist, Steyer climbed to second place in South Carolina, ahead of Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, and jumped to third in Nevada, according to a recent Fox News poll. Both states vote toward the end of February. The polls helped to qualify the hedge fund manager for the seventh debate in Des Moines, Iowa — a feat that seemed all but impossible earlier in the week.
“it appears Steyer has spent himself into a potentially relevant position, as he’s knocking on the door of the 15 percent delegate threshold,” Republican pollster Daron Shaw, who conducts the poll alongside Democrat Chris Anderson, told Fox News.
So far, Steyer has spent an astonishing $128 million on television, cable, radio and digital ads, according to Advertising Analytics. He’s outpaced by just one other person: Fellow billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who’s dropped a mind-boggling $225 million on his campaign, and suggested he’s willing to go as high as $1 billion to unseat President Trump.
The Steyer campaign did not immediately respond to a FOX Business request for comment, but a spokesperson told Bloomberg News there are no intentions to cap spending.
“We are not going to do that, especially now that we’ve seen the encouraging polling,” campaign spokesman Alberto Lammers said.
Unlike Bloomberg, who will not appear on the ballot in early-voting states, Steyer’s ad purchases are largely concentrated in Iowa ($10 million), South Carolina ($9.5 million), Nevada ($9.2 million) and New Hampshire ($2.8 million), according to FiveThirtyEight’s ad spending tracker.
It remains to be seen how, or if, Steyer’s deep pockets could shake up the primary. Frontrunners former Vice President Joe Biden, comparatively, spent just $2.5 million in Iowa, while Sanders spent $4.9 million in the state (in which he’s emerged as a top-tier candidate), and Warren dropped $2.6 million.
Steyer, who founded investment company Farallon Capital Management in 1986 and sold it in 2012, is campaigning heavily on addressing climate change.