Wonder if Donald Trump might just do a one-and-done and bow out of the 2020 presidential race? It’s not an impossibility, but we can put the odds on it at 100 million to one. Both NBC and CNN reported earlier today that Team Trump has a big head start on fundraising before Democrats have even gotten out of the gate:
President Donald Trump has raised more than $100 million for a re-election battle that is more than two years away, giving him a massive financial advantage over a crowded field of potential Democratic contenders jockeying to challenge him in 2020.
The President raised more than $18 million during the July-to-September fundraising quarter through his campaign committee and the joint fundraising operations he maintains with the Republican National Committee, according to his campaign and filings Monday night with Federal Election Commission. That haul means his re-election effort’s war chest now exceeds $106 million.
Trump’s campaign ended last month with more $35.4 million in available cash stockpiled in its bank account.
Trump’s Q3 results may only be roughly a Half Beto, but it’s pretty impressive for a race that still two years away. But even that’s the not the whole story when it comes to fundraising for 2020’s presidential bid. Add in the RNC and joint fundraising committees, the Washington Post reports, and you get “a well-oiled, fully weaponized battle station”:
Together with the RNC, Trump’s campaign committee and joint fundraising committees have raised more than $337 million, and stockpiled at least $88 million of it in cash.
Democrats acknowledge that Trump has a head start in fine-tuning the campaign’s data and online fundraising capabilities. The president is a top political advertiser on Facebook and Google, and the RNC is continuing to improve the data and email lists that Trump’s 2020 campaign will inherit.
“It is really impressive, the money and the operation that the Trump folks are putting together,” said Paul Begala, a Democratic strategist. As soon as the midterm election is over, he said, Democrats “had better get about the business of re-arming for the next battle.”
The primaries have yet to start, and Team Trump and its affiliates have already raised one-third of a billion dollars for the 2020 campaign. How does that stack up against 2016’s numbers? When the campaigns wrapped up, the final reports put total Trump fundraising (with outside PAC money) at a little over $410 million ($333 million by the campaign itself). That doesn’t appear to include the RNC, but even without it, Team Trump is already well on its way to blowing out the roof on its past performance. For the record, Hillary Clinton and her allies raised a combined total of nearly $900 million, a target that Trump and his campaign allies could seriously threaten at this pace.
CNN notes that the campaign claims this isn’t coming from just the well-heeled donor class at big-ticket fundraisers, either. Almost all of this comes from small donors, officials declared:
Donors who give in small amounts helped fill Trump’s campaign accounts. Small-dollar contributions of $200 or less represent nearly 98% of the money he collected during the third quarter of the year, campaign officials said.
“After twenty months in office with unparalleled results for peace and prosperity in America, President Trump has provided the results he promised,” Lara Trump, Trump’s daughter-in-law and a senior campaign adviser, said in a statement. “And grassroots America has responded to these remarkable results and the booming Trump economy with their generous support of our campaign.”
The Post sees it a little differently, but either way small donors are remarkably engaged two years out from the election:
Supporters are buying Make America Great Again gear and responding to Facebook ads. A barrage of Republican Party fundraising appeal emails bearing Trump’s name and likeness have helped draw in a steady stream of donations of less than $200, which make up more than 40 percent of its fundraising this cycle.
“I need you to defend our agenda, our country, and our Presidency,” one recent fundraising email reads.
Trump has been equally successful at luring large contributions from wealthy donors who support conservative causes. These groups are better organized and act more strategically than any Democratic outfits that raise money from big donors, said Joel Benenson, who was a campaign strategist for Barack Obama.
Obviously, no one puts this much effort into raising money without intending to run. The question will be whether this early effort results in donor exhaustion down the line. Strategically, it’s better to get the money later to refuel the campaign machine when maximum effort and activity take place.
That’s not the only strategy in play here, though. Raising this much money in 2018 will have a big impact on those who might be considering a primary challenge to Trump next year. There have been plenty of rumblings, but no one’s organizing for it — yet, anyway. If a Jeff Flake or John Kasich starts taking the idea seriously, they’ll find themselves deep in the hole before they take their first step, and might find that the donors they need have already committed to Trump. Incumbent presidents have that advantage anyway, but Team Trump isn’t taking any chances.
Update: Hillary Clinton raised $900 million, not $900 billion. I’ve fixed the error above, and thanks to Steve on Twitter for flagging it.