Update: Tom Steyer dropped out of the 2020 presidential race on the night of the South Carolina primary, February 29, 2020.
Who is Tom Steyer?
Current job: Billionaire environmental activist and political megadonor.
Family: Steyer is married to Kathryn Taylor; together they have four grown children.
Hometown: New York City; he lives in San Francisco.
Political party: Democratic.
Previous jobs: Former hedge-fund investor and director of Farallon Capital.
Who was Steyer’s direct competition for the nomination?
Based on a recurring series of national surveys we conduct, we can figure out who the other candidates competing in Steyer’s lane are, and who the broader opponents are within the party.
Insider has been conducting a recurring poll through SurveyMonkey Audience on a national sample to find out how different candidates’ constituencies overlap. We ask people whether they are familiar with a candidate, whether they would be satisfied or unsatisfied with that candidate as the nominee, and sometimes we also ask whether they think that person would win or lose in a general election against President Donald Trump.
What are Steyer’s policy positions?
- On healthcare:
On climate change:
- Steyer is pledging to declare climate change a national emergency on his first day in office, which differs from other candidates’ plans as it relies on the emergency powers of the presidency.
- “On day one, we’d do a bunch of things including reentering [the Paris climate accords], freeze and reverse the Trump rulemaking, we’d establish a cabinet level position, put a climate lens on all purchasing … and if Congress couldn’t pass a Green New Deal, [we] would set clean energy standards,” Steyer said of his climate plan. The campaign has estimated it would cost $US2.3 trillion.
- The billionaire environmental activist is also calling for stronger international cooperation to combat climate change.
- Steyer founded an environmentally focused political-action committee in 2013 that became NextGen America, which spent $US96 million during the 2016 election cycle to support climate-friendly candidates, mostly Democrats.
- At the fifth Democratic debate in November, Steyer defended his environmental record against criticisms from former Vice President Joe Biden, who called out Steyer for investing in coal and fossil fuels during his career in finance.
- “I’ve spent a decade fighting and beating oil companies, stopping pipelines, stopping fossil fuel plants, and ensuring clean energy,” Steyer said, adding he would make climate his No. 1 priority and declare a national emergency on the climate crisis in office.
On campaign finance:
- Steyer wants to overturn the “Citizens United” Supreme Court decision to reduce the influence of money in politics.
- In a news release announcing his candidacy, Steyer said, “The only way for us to solve the urgent problems facing our country is to loosen the stranglehold that corporations have over our politicians and return political power to the American people.”
- The billionaire liberal activist would also restructure the Federal Election Commission, characterising it in his plan as “plagued by internal dysfunction” and “broken.”
- At the fifth Democratic debate in November, Steyer also called for mandatory term limits on members of Congress.
- The Democratic megadonor wants to protect a woman’s right to abortion, vowing in 2017 that his NextGen group wouldn’t “work for a single candidate who is not pro-choice.”
- Steyer is supportive of pushing for more gun-control laws, having called on young voters after the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting in Florida to push “for gun reform now” in a Facebook video.
On criminal-justice reform:
- Steyer has criticised the cost of bail as being needlessly high for people of colour. He said in a tweet: “Bail in this country is injustice perpetuated by greed and motivated by oppression. Black, brown, and poor people are being held because they do not have the resources to be free. There is no justice in our justice system.”
- On foreign policy:
- The California billionaire is in favour of raising taxes on the wealthy, though it is unclear to what extent.
- Steyer voiced his support for Sen. Bernie Sanders‘ plan to tax the corporations and the wealthy during the fourth Democratic primary debate in October, saying, “There have been 40 years where corporations have bought this government, and those 40 years have meant a 40-year attack on the rights of working people and, specifically the rights of organised labour.”
- Steyer also said he would “undo every Republican tax cut for rich people and for corporations.”
- Back in 2017, Steyer called on Trump to raise his taxes during the Republican push to pass the tax law.
- “We need to make sure that we’re not in a society that is unbalanced and unfair and where the richest Americans are taking advantage of everybody else,” Steyer said at the time.
What are Steyer’s political successes?
- Steyer lobbied then-President Barack Obama to not approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline, arguing it’d be too harmful to the environment. Obama shot down the project, but it’s been revived under Trump.
- He spent over $US100 million to support Democratic candidates in the 2018 midterms, helping the party recapture the House. Steyer has also been forcefully advocating for Trump’s impeachment, further thrusting the debate onto the national stage.
Where did Tom Steyer poll best?
Based on the 12 polls conducted by Insider since late August, we can gather a sense of the geographic regions where candidates are overperforming when it comes to how satisfied voters would be if they were chosen as the presidential nominee. Though the first four primaries are in the Western Midwest, New England, the South Atlantic and Mountain regions, the four regions that allocate the bulk of the delegates to the Democratic National Convention are the South Atlantic (16%), Pacific (16%), Mid-Atlantic (16%) and Eastern Midwest (15%).
Voters in New England were most satisfied with Steyer as a candidate at a rate of 19.6 percentage points over other regions. He also does well in the West Mid-Atlantic (+2.4 percentage points) and West Midwest (+4.9 percentage points). He polls worst in the Eastern South region (-11 percentage points) and East Midwest (-7.1 percentage points).
How is Tom Steyer viewed by different wings of the Democratic party?
Steyer does especially well among those who identified as neither liberal nor conservative. He underperforms among liberals.
How much money did Steyer raise?
According to Steyer’s most recent Federal Election Commission filing, 95% of his third-quarter donations were self-funded. He donated $US47.6 million to his own campaign and raised about $US2 million in external donations.
Could Steyer have beat Trump?
Only 12% of Democrats aware of Steyer think he’d beat Trump in the general election, which is a fraction of the 30% who say as much for a typical Democrat.
How did Democratic voters feel about Steyer’s qualifications?
Insider has conducted polling about how voters feel about candidate attributes or qualifications. We asked respondents about a list of possible qualifications and if they made them more likely or less likely to vote for a candidate for president.
For example, among respondents who said they’d vote in the Democratic primary, 19% said a candidate being a college professor made them likelier to support them, while 4% said it made them less likely to, for a +15% net favorability. We can then see how different candidates’ résumés stack up compared to those preferences.
Attributes perceived as most valuable include his past as an activist (+28%) and Ivy League education (+7%).
Attributes considered to be a liability based on the preferences of self-reported Democratic voters include his time as a foundation owner (-4%), a business owner (-11%), his little time in government (-22%), and that he grew up rich (-42%).
Recently, Steyer’s campaign was involved in two scandals when his South Carolina state director resigned in connection with the stealing of Sen. Kamala Harris’ campaign data and a senior Steyer aide in Iowa said he offered campaign donations to local politicians in exchange for endorsements.
Read more of our stories on Tom Steyer:
- From the wealthy to Wall Street, here’s how the 2020 Democrats would redraw the US tax code with their plans
- Trump trolled Tom Steyer after he quoted the president saying Democrats would ‘destroy the economy in 15 minutes’
- Tom Steyer gets his big moment by awkwardly interrupting Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren’s postdebate exchange
- From Rockefeller, to George Washington, to Donald Trump, here are 11 of the richest US presidential candidates in history
- The top 25 Americans who funded politics in 2018
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