We’ve been reporting quite a bit on the fundraising numbers released during the first quarter of 2019 for the 2020 Democratic candidates. Some of them pulled in huge numbers and have started to amass great war chests. Others, however, still have some work to do on their fundraising game. There is one 2020 candidate, however, who was able to out-raise them all: President Donald Trump.
It’s not surprising for an incumbent to out-raise his challengers, at least at this early stage of the game. They’re all just getting started, while Trump has spent years now fostering a fundraising machine and continues to operate as a cash cow for the Republican National Committee.
The fundraising report on Trump’s numbers come to us from Fortune:
President Donald Trump raised more than $30 million for his re-election effort, according to figures released by his campaign, and has $40.8 million in the bank, more than any of the active Democratic candidates have reported so far.
The Republican National Committee, which will be supporting Trump’s bid, raised an additional $45.8 million in the first quarter, the most it’s raised in a non-election year. Combined, the party and Trump’s committees have $82 million in the bank, an unprecedented war chest this early in a presidential election contest.
The $75.8 million Trump’s committees and the RNC raised in the first quarter tops the $67.5 million that eight Democratic candidates have voluntarily reported, though the Democratic National Committee and several candidates who raised money in the first quarter have yet to release totals. Candidates must report first-quarter fundraising and spending to the Federal Election Commission by the end of Monday, but individual campaigns often announce collections shortly ahead of the deadline to try to showcase their support. Party committees aren’t due to report to the FEC until Saturday.
Trump’s base has continued to support his campaign. Almost 99 percent of its donations were in amounts of $200 or less, with an average donation of around $34, according to the campaign, which first released the information to the Associated Press.
Money doesn’t always win elections as demonstrated by Hillary Clinton’s loss in 2016. She was able to out-raise and out-spend Trump but still lost the Electoral College to him.
Trump, for whatever reason, continues to maintain a wide base of fundraising support. He’s been able to keep the RNC coffers filled for races around the country and continues to pull in deep support from donors all over the place. His base is solid as far as fundraising goes.
As Fortune also notes, 2020 for Trump will look a lot more sophisticated and should be a better-organized operation than 2016:
Unlike his first bid for the White House, a low-budget affair compared to other presidential campaigns in the era of Citizens United, Trump is planning a much better-financed re-election effort, with the goal of raising $1 billion. That’s a major change for a candidate who largely self-financed his successful bid for the GOP nomination, and ended by putting $66 million of his own money into his campaign. In his first quarter of fundraising after announcing his candidacy in June 2015 at Trump Tower in New York, he reported raising just $1.9 million, with $1.8 million coming from his own pocket.
Calling the billion-dollar 2016 campaign a “low-budget affair” is somewhat comical considering how much money was actually spent on both sides.
The difference for Trump and the RNC in 2020 versus 2016 is that some big-time Republican donors, who closed their wallets last time around, seem to be warming to Trump’s re-election effort. The GOP donor class was much more in love with Republicans like Paul Ryan, or even Mitt Romney, the tried-and-true “establishment” candidates who pushed the safe pro-growth business agenda well-liked by the donor class.
Trump, on the other hand, with his off-the-cuff statements on trade wars and often antagonizing the world markets with an errant tweet was not what the GOP donor class had in mind. Fast-forward to 2019 and 2020, however, and some of them are singing a different tune.
Politico reported a few days ago on the new love Trump is getting from some deep GOP pockets:
The effort involves scores of high-powered businessmen, lobbyists and former ambassadors who raised big money for George W. Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney — and who are now preparing to tap their expansive networks for Trump after rebuffing his first presidential bid.
The project, which is closely modeled after the famed Pioneers network that helped to fuel Bush’s 2000 campaign, is slated to be formally unveiled on May 7, when well-connected Republican fundraisers from around the country descend on Washington for a closed-door event with Trump 2020 aides. Under the plan, which was described by more than a half-dozen party officials, high-performing bundlers who collect at least $25,000 for Trump Victory, a joint Trump 2020-Republican National Committee fundraising vehicle, will earn rewards like invitations to campaign-sponsored retreats, briefings and dinners.
Party officials have been reaching out to top fundraisers in recent weeks and wooing them with the prospect of joining “raiser clubs,” with names like 45 Club, Trump Train and Builders Club.
The push illustrates how Trump, who once took a sledgehammer to rivals for their supposed fealty to big donors, has come to rely on a GOP establishment he once repudiated. And it’s a sign of just how closely the lean, ragtag operation that stunned the political world in 2016 now resembles a traditional presidential campaign. Yet it also underscores how the elite Republican money class, which waged an aggressive, but ultimately unsuccessful effort to stop Trump in the 2016 election, has come to accept and accommodate a president it once scorned.
For some of these donors, it’s undoubtedly a case of “hold your nose” and vote for Trump. They didn’t like him in 2016, probably still don’t like him now. However, based on the options presented to them, with no GOP primary challengers making a serious effort (besides Bill Weld), they’re stuck with him.
For these donors, a second-term of Donald Trump is more palatable than a first-term of Bernie Sanders, or anyone else the Democratic Party may nominate in 2020.