If money wins elections, Democrats might face a wipeout in 2020. The RNC broke fundraising records for the third month in a row, Bloomberg and others reported overnight, more than doubling the Democrats’ best showing this year. They are also adding cash to their coffers, an advantage that might — might — be more indicative of 2020 success:
The Republican National Committee raised $23.5 million in August and ended the month with $53.8 million cash on hand as it continues to stockpile money for the 2020 election.
It was the third consecutive month that the RNC raised more than $20 million, and the biggest August total in a non-election year for the party. The Democratic National Committee has yet to crack $10 million in receipts in 2019. Both parties will report their numbers officially to the Federal Election Commission on Friday. Fox News first reported the numbers Tuesday.
The fundraising differentials are astounding, but keep in mind some context, too. First, GOP donors aren’t distracted by multiple candidates in a competitive primary contest. Democrats’ funds are getting sprayed across a couple dozen presidential campaigns at the moment. The early merger between Team Trump and the RNC helps, too. However, part of the context is that Tom Perez and his team have done a terrible job of fundraising, which might also be a result of anger over the DNC’s efforts to tank the 2016 primaries for Hillary Clinton.
Democrats might be increasing the gap in other ways, too. Ronna Romney McDaniel thanked Democrats for helping boost donations over the summer:
“Thanks to boycotts from Hollywood liberals and the Castro brothers doxxing private citizens who support President Trump, the RNC’s fundraising hit record levels in August,” McDaniel said.
That was a reference to last month’s decision by Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, to name and shame Trump donors publicly in San Antonio — a move backed by his brother, presidential candidate Julián Castro. It later emerged that some of the individuals also had donated to the White House hopeful.
McDaniel added: “The more Democrats demonize President Trump and his supporters, the more boots we can put on the ground to re-elect him. Between the President’s accomplishments and our grassroots infrastructure, Republicans are going to be unstoppable in 2020!”
What about the ground game? Bloomberg also makes reference to that in its report:
In addition to stockpiling cash, the RNC is developing its ground game and trying to expand the 2020 election map to New Mexico and other states, according to a party official not authorized to speak on its behalf. President Donald Trump held a rally in Albuquerque on Tuesday in an effort to drum up support in the state that was carried by George W. Bush in his 2004 re-election campaign, but has otherwise voted for Democratic presidential candidates since 1992.
Earlier this week, I spoke with an RNC official on background about the ground game, a subject of considerable weight in my 2016 book Going Red. In my book, I wrote about the Republican Leadership Initiative (RLI) launched by then-RNC chair Reince Priebus. The RLI was based on the same organizational model that Barack Obama built in 2008 and 2012, but within the party’s own control. Its purpose was to build up a grassroots, bi-directional organization that would not only produce superior data but also brand and candidate loyalty, effective feedback on messaging, and contextualization of agendas into the local communities.
According to this official, the RLI has transitioned into the Trump Victory Leadership Initiative (TVLI) but remains within RNC operational control. It still uses the Obama organizational model of community- and neighborhood-focused recruitment of volunteers and organizers. Because the TVLI is controlled by the RNC, its resources are available to down-ticket candidates as well as the Trump re-election campaign. The TVLI is now in twenty states, with more expansion on the horizon as resources increase.
This is “a permanent, data-driven ground game,” the RNC official told me. That matters, but so does buy-in from the candidate and the campaign. They insist that Team Trump has fully bought into the bottom-up organizational model and believe in its effectiveness. If so, that will be somewhat of a change from 2016’s campaign, and good news for Republicans hoping to keep Democrats out of the White House and out of a Senate majority as well.
Finally, the RNC official says that they see no evidence that Democrats are organizing in the same manner. The DNC doesn’t have enough resources for this kind of initiative, he says, which means it may be left to the nominee — who will have to spend lots of resources just to make it to a general election. That’s why Priebus built the RLI within the GOP in the first place, and it might be the edge Trump and Republicans need in 2020.