WASHINGTON – After losing his money advantage, President Donald Trump has entered the final stage of his re-election race and is facing a perfect storm of headwinds, including a base of large donors who are exhausted, choose to sit on the sidelines or switch their resources to increasingly competitive Senate races.
Trump raised $ 210 million in August – a sizeable sum, but well below Democratic candidate Joe Biden’s $ 365 million. Though the president had nearly three years head start in fundraising for Biden, both campaigns had nearly the same amount of money in their war chests by the end of July. None of the campaigns released their full financial reports for August.
Now, in the final weeks of the race, many large Republican donors have reached the limit of how much they can legally give. Others hesitate to give more after the campaign blown $ 800 million this cycle, only to follow Biden in polls nationally and in major swing states. At the same time, donors are being asked to contribute to a growing number of Republican Senators facing tough races, with several major 201
“It’s depressing that the financial advantage we had has been completely gone,” said Dan Eberhart, a major Republican donor. “I think this is a big blow to Trumpworld right now.”
Trump, a self-proclaimed billionaire, said Tuesday he was ready to put his own money into the campaign if necessary – a move he used in 2016 to increase confidence in his profit prospects. Bloomberg News was the first to report that Trump was discussing giving his campaign $ 100 million. It’s the same amount he pledged repeatedly in 2016, despite the fact that his total actual contribution was $ 66 million, some of which was only tied to the campaign in the last few days of the race.
Trump campaign officials say they have enough money to make it through election day. They downplay the importance of money in the race, pointing out where and how they are spending, including $ 200 million on ads they plan to run over the next two months. Regardless of who wins the money race, both campaigns are expected to spend more than $ 1 billion to reach a million voters in battlefield states, said a person close to the Trump campaign.
“If money were the only factor that determines the winners and losers in politics, Jeb Bush would have been the candidate in 2016, and we would now have a President Clinton in the Oval Office,” campaign manager Bill Stepien told reporters Tuesday.
But the campaign behaved like a resource-intensive operation, and one person nearing re-election said spending on money had changed noticeably since Stepien took office as campaign manager in July. The campaign aired twice in key states to save money and redirect advertising dollars to states with early voting. He has also cut spending on a number of smaller items such as: For example, the number of employees who travel and the cost of food.
“We are managing the budget carefully now,” said Stepien. “I consider it one of the most important tasks of a campaign manager. Building the budget and recreating it was the first thing I did. “
Trump has used his advantage as an incumbent to save money too. In choosing the White House for his congressional address, Trump said it was the “most cost-conscious” place. The president has also increasingly used official White House events that the taxpayer paid for to launch attacks on Joe Biden – such as during a World War II memorial tour in North Carolina last week – and the lines between the end of his political life Activities and the beginning of his presidential duties blurred.
“You cannot underestimate the immense platform we as incumbents have to get our message across and project a presidential message for free through simple press conferences and regular coverage of events. You cannot underestimate it,” said the person close to the company Campaign. “It’s worth billions of dollars.”
Trump, who did not opt for virtual fundraising like his opponents during the pandemic, will travel this weekend as part of the campaign to raise funds in Las Vegas, the hometown of Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson.
On Tuesday, he justified the heavy wave of spending this year by tweeting that it was necessary “to counteract the fake news reporting on dealing with the corona virus”. One person close to the campaign suggested that Trump would go down even more in the polls if it weren’t for the money the campaign spent on defense last year.
But donors and strategists say they see a lot of wasted money that has led them to think about places where their dollars could be better spent. A New York Times report this week recorded a number of questionable items of expenditure, including a car and driver for Trump’s former campaign manager Brad Parscale, $ 110,000 on magnetic phone cases to prevent donors from secretly recording Trump, and tens Million US dollars for government bills.
“At this late point in time, people would queue up to make last minute contributions when they feel it is a close race and they can make a difference. But right now they don’t feel like it can make a difference and say, “Jesus, I’m just flushing this in the toilet. Is that just about legal bills? ‘”Said a Republican strategist.
The strategist said they recently advised a client to use money they would give Trump’s Congress to run in the Republican Senate instead. Eberhart said he was also shifting his focus to the Senate and seeing other donors doing the same. A number of GOP senators, including Senator Joni Ernst in Iowa and Senator Martha McSally in Arizona, face tough re-election bids for seats that were once considered safe.
“I think the big donors are increasingly focusing on the Senate,” said Eberhart. He said while Biden continues to lead the polls, “donors are increasingly trying to keep the Senate as something we must do.”
The National Republicans Senatorial Campaign Committee saw donations spike this summer and, according to nominations, outperformed its Democratic counterpart in that election cycle by July.
This type of spending, along with Trump’s falling summer polls, helped lower donor morale. But the campaign tried to reverse that impression under Stepien.
“Two months ago, the feeling in the donor class was pretty pessimistic, and that was not just limited to donors, but the staff, the White House staff. A lot of people didn’t feel good about where things were,” the said Person near the campaign. “We keep scratching our way out of the hole we were in in the summer.”
After nearly four years of fundraising, some small and medium-sized donors have reached the limit of $ 2,800 they can give to the campaign. A letter from the FEC to the Trump campaign with a list of donors who have exceeded their legal limit is more than 850 pages, far more than the list of Biden donors who have reached the maximum.
Meanwhile, some Republican mega-donors, some of whom were heavily supportive of Trump in 2016, have largely stayed on the sidelines this time until July, according to campaign submissions.
Trump’s largest 2016 donor, Robert Mercer, who donated $ 15.5 million in the last cycle, gave the campaign just over $ 360,000. Tech entrepreneur Peter Thiel, who donated $ 1.25 million to Trump in 2016, donated just $ 250,000 to Trump in 2018, while spending nearly $ 1 million on Kris Kobach’s failed efforts to get the Kansas Republican Senate nomination to win this summer. Billionaire Carl Icahn and his wife Gail Golden-Icahn, who donated $ 260,000 in 2016, had donated just $ 4,760 in July.
With large donors putting their money elsewhere, the Trump campaign, in which August, including the GOP Convention, was the largest online donation month of all time for re-election, increasingly relied on these smaller donors.
But they also hit a roadblock there. In the past, the campaign had used the president’s large rallies to raise funds from people waiting for the event to begin and to add small dollar supporters to its database. But with the pandemic, Trump held much smaller events and attracted fewer new potential supporters.
The pandemic has also left 27 million people unemployed nationwide, with others feeling less financially secure and putting a strain on small donors.
“For a waitress in a cafe, $ 10 is $ 100,000 for Sheldon Adelson,” said the Republican strategist. “You read about a man with a car and a driver and see the polls go down. Small donors are very sensitive. “