Trump could crater traditional GOP fundraising for midterms

Many establishment Republicans were probably breathing a sigh of relief after former President Donald Trump took the stage at CPAC and announced that he had no plans to form a third party. That sense of relief may be short-lived, however. One portion of the speech that they may have missed amidst all of the applause was the part where Trump urged all of his supporters to send their money to his Save America PAC at his website. While the NRC and affiliated groups have already been sending out fundraising emails targeting Trump supporters, the Bad Orange Man is obviously looking to control the flow of donations directly, rather than allowing the party machinery to divvy up the haul. And that could spell serious problems for many Republicans in the 2022 midterms. (Associated Press)

While some Republicans grapple with how fiercely to embrace the former president, the organizations charged with raising money for the party are going all in. The Republican National Committee and the party’s congressional campaign arms are eager to cash in on Trump’s lure with small donors ahead of next year’s midterm elections, when the GOP hopes to regain control of at least one chamber of Congress.

But there’s a problem: Trump himself. In his first speech since leaving office, the former president encouraged loyalists to give directly to him, essentially bypassing the traditional groups that raise money for GOP candidates.

“There’s only one way to contribute to our efforts to elect ‘America First’ Republican conservatives and, in turn, to make America great again,” Trump said Sunday at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida. “And that’s through Save America PAC and”

This isn’t some idle threat that Trump tossed out as an afterthought during his speech in Orlando. His Save America PAC is already sitting on more than $80 million, including three million that he raised immediately after leaving the stage at CPAC. That’s 80 million dollars that would have been going to swell the war chests of Republican incumbents and candidates in the pre-Trump era. And in some cases, the money will still be used against those traditional GOP members.

Sure, it’s easy enough to say, well, at least the money isn’t going to the Democrats. That’s fair, but it’s far from the whole story. With the Trump team controlling where all of those campaign funds go, you can rest assured that the priority will be placed on the people who were the most vocally loyal to the former president. And in the case of anyone who voted against him in the impeachment proceedings, the cash will land in the coffers of primary opponents.

If Donald Trump can fundraise anywhere near as prodigiously from the private sector as he did as a candidate, this is going to cause a lot of headaches for the traditional RNC machinery. One committee member from New Jersey is quoted in the article, criticizing Trump’s approach.

Listen it’s a free country. Anybody can form a federal PAC or a super PAC and there’s always lots of competition for dollars. But the crossing the line there is then to also tell people to not give to the important committees of the national party,” said Bill Palatucci. “There’s got to be a willingness on the former president to look beyond his own self-interest.”

I’m sorry, but did you really just say “look beyond his own self-interest?” Have you ever even heard of Donald Trump? He’s not a traditional politician. He’s not a traditional Republican. He didn’t govern as a traditional president. He made his mark in the world of American politics by being a disruptor. And he’s now made it fairly clear that his speech at CPAC wasn’t his swan song. He’s not going anywhere, and the GOP is going to need to take that into account when planning for 2022 and beyond.

The Democrats’ majority in the House hangs on a number of seats you can count on two hands and the Senate is a dead-even tie. There’s a real opportunity for the Republicans to take back one if not both chambers next year if the country doesn’t think Joe Biden is delivering on ending the pandemic quickly enough. But if they have to fight the Democrats while Trump is tying one hand behind their backs, that may prove impossible. It seems as if the RNC needs to decide now whether they are going to be working with Trump or against him.