Reelection bid gets hefty lift of $105 million

While Trump may be trailing the Democratic front-runners in the polls, his second-quarter numbers were a reminder that as an incumbent, he has advantages that were unavailable to him as an untraditional, first-time candidate in 2016.

Reelection bid gets hefty lift of $105 million

The campaign and the committee said that they had a combined $100 million in cash on hand, and that they had raised more money online in the second quarter than in the first half of 2018. Trump and his committees raised $54 million, they said, and the Republican National Committee raised $51 million, money that can be plowed into television and digital advertising, get-out-the-vote efforts and other activities related to the 2020 election.

While Trump may be trailing the Democratic front-runners in the polls, his second-quarter numbers were a reminder that as an incumbent, he has advantages that were unavailable to him as an untraditional, first-time candidate in 2016.

Trump rose to the presidency with fewer staff members and less money than his opponent, Hillary Clinton. This time, he will have the Republican Party’s fundraising mechanism, as well as the powers of the presidency, bolstering his raw personal appeal to his base, even as he tries to present himself as the outsider to the political establishment that he once was.

“A huge advantage the president’s got is, he’s the nominee, he’s the incumbent,” said Ann Herberger, a veteran Republican fundraiser who worked for Jeb Bush over several campaigns, including his presidential run. The Democrats, Herberger said, “are in the same boat that we were in 2016 — until their convention, it’s a food fight, it’s every man for himself.”

Trump campaign officials said they received 725,000 individual donations online, with supporters giving an average of $48 — small-donor enthusiasm that was unprecedented in Republican politics, according to a committee official, who noted it was the first time the Republican National Committee attracted a larger share of donations under $200 than the Democratic National Committee.

At the same time, as president, Trump also has command of the party’s donor base in a way he never did in 2016. The official said the Republican National Committee, which has taken the lead on fundraising for Trump’s reelection, overseeing the digital efforts and major donor events, also saw a large uptick in traditional party donors, which increased to more than one-third of the committee’s total fundraising since the last cycle.

The official report on the Trump’s campaign finances for the quarter, which will include spending, will be filed on July 15 with the Federal Election Commission.

In 2011, during the same period, Obama’s reelection campaign raised $47 million, and the Democratic National Committee brought in $38 million, Jim Messina, the Obama campaign manager, said at the time. The comparisons are not perfect because a 2014 Supreme Court case and other legal changes allowed candidates and parties to form joint fundraising committees that can accept single donations of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The Trump campaign manager, Brad Parscale, called the $105 million a “massive fundraising success” based on enthusiasm for the president’s record, which Parscale said no Democratic candidate could match. He has said in the past that his goal is to raise $1 billion for the cycle among the various committees supporting Trump’s reelection.

The early fundraising totals are also a testament to the more professional operation working on Trump’s behalf both at the Republican National Committee and his campaign headquarters in Arlington, Virginia — a tactical element of the campaign that is separate from Trump. It is a sharp departure from how he ran his 2016 general election campaign as an underdog taking on a better-funded Democratic opponent, Clinton.

In that race, Trump funded his campaign with $66.1 million of his own money. He raised $86.7 million from donors who gave $200 or less, and $46.9 million from large individual contributions, according to campaign filings. In total, including his own money, Trump raised $350.7 million, far less than Clinton’s campaign, which raised $585.7 million.

The main effect of his early fundraising is the ability to stockpile large bundles of cash while Democrats are spending their money fighting each other.

“Democratic fundraising is getting a lot of attention, but the Trump campaign is slowly amassing a huge war chest, and unlike theirs, it won’t be spent trying to win a primary,” said Matt Gorman, a former adviser to the Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney presidential campaigns. “Events like debates or announcements that are cash cows for Democrats are just as helpful to Republican fundraising, too.”

Ronna McDaniel, the Republican National Committee chairwoman, said the fundraising allowed the committee to “identify troves of new supporters online and continue investing in our unprecedented field program.”

The committee and campaign plan to invest heavily in online advertising, the committee official said, in order to help build out their email and cellphone lists. So far, the official said, the Republican National Committee has spent close to $20 million on prospecting for new donors and is looking to spend more.

Trump’s campaign relied primarily on the Trump family to solicit online donations, blasting out appeals from the president, as well as from his adult sons, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr.; his daughter-in-law, Lara Trump; and from Parscale himself. One fundraising email featured a pitch from Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker.

Previous reports with the Federal Election Commission show that the Trump campaign and the party committee have spent roughly $17 million on legal fees, some of them related to campaign compliance. Other expenses relate to legal fees for members of the Trump family or officials who were connected to congressional inquiries and the special counsel’s investigation.

Even with a heavy legal overhead, the amount of money that was both raised and stored away will be daunting for Trump’s eventual challenger, underscoring the benefits of incumbency.

By comparison, the announcement on Monday that Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and a Democratic presidential candidate, had raised $24.8 million in the second quarter was seen as a stunning number for a candidate who was relatively unknown six months ago.

Trailing Buttigieg was Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, whose campaign said he had raised $18 million in the past three months.

Other campaigns in the large Democratic field have yet to announce fundraising for the quarter, although some saw an increase after the first primary debate, which was held last week over two nights in Miami.

“There’s a very real risk for Democrats that Trump is going to have the resources to define himself and our nominee in the spring before we can,” said Robby Mook, who served as Clinton’s campaign manager in 2016. “That’s a very real risk. It should worry us.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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