Key GOP fundraiser: Donors will fall in line behind Trump

Key GOP fundraiser: Donors will fall in line behind Trump
© Getty Images

A top Republican fundraiser says he believes the majority of the party's donor class will ultimately “fall in line” behind Donald TrumpDonald TrumpAt center of Qatar crisis, a billion ransom Chaffetz: Threats against lawmakers should be taken seriously Warren cautions Dems against infighting MORE as the party’s presidential nominee despite last-ditch attempts by some wealthy conservatives to derail the billionaire front-runner.

“The majority of donors want to see a Republican victory,” Fred Malek, the finance chair of the Republican Governors Association, said in a telephone interview with The Hill on Friday. 

“They might prefer somebody other than Trump but if he gets the nomination they will fall in line.”

Malek has been a key player in the multimillion-dollar fundraising machine that has helped install Republican governors in statehouses across the country.

Among the donors he talks to, Malek said many are saying they will support Trump if he wins the nomination, despite their misgivings, because the stakes of this election are so high. 

He said those voices view as unacceptable the prospect of a President Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonTrump: 'Why no action' from Obama on Russian meddling? Trump notes 'election meddling by Russia' in tweet criticizing Obama Former Obama advisor calls Fox ‘state sanctioned media’ MORE driving America further leftward and potentially installing as many as four Supreme Court nominees. He also predicted that possibility will focus many donors' minds and dissolve much of the remaining resistance to Trump.

Malek says he, too, would ultimately support Trump if the billionaire wins the nomination.

“We have seen enough of the extreme leftward drift of the country and the over-regulation of the economy,” he said. “At the end of the day we want to win and have a Republican in the White House.”

Malek has previously said that he preferred picking a governor or more mainstream GOP figure like Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioWill Republicans stand up to the NRA's insurrection rhetoric? The Hill's Whip List: Senate ObamaCare repeal bill Ivanka Trump turns to House GOP on paid family leave MORE (R-Fla.) as the party’s nominee.

Rubio has fallen off the pack, however, and faces a must-win situation in Florida to keep any hopes of the nomination alive.

Trump holds 459 delegates compared to 360 for Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzGOP at decisive moment on Planned Parenthood Trump: ‘I cannot imagine’ GOP senators don’t back healthcare bill Trump making calls to senators on healthcare bill MORE (R-Texas), 152 for Rubio and 54 for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, according to the Associated Press. Trump would clinch the nomination with 1,237 deleates.

The begrudging acceptance of Trump is far from universal among GOP elites.

Billionaire mega-donors including Wall Street hedge fund manager Paul Singer and the Ricketts family, which owns the Chicago Cubs baseball team, have been shoveling cash into outside groups in a last-minute rush to take down Trump. 

Prominent Republican operatives, such as former Mitt Romney advisers Katie Packer and Stuart Stevens, say they would back Trump under no circumstances.

Conservative intellectual leaders such as The Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol and Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) have even floated the possibility of backing a true conservative on a third party ticket if Trump wins the nomination.

Other GOP elites are holding out hope that a divide-and-conquer delegate strategy will work by preventing Trump from winning 1,237 delegates. They hope a nominee will be picked at a contested convention.

Rubio’s campaign took the extraordinary step on Friday of recommending that Rubio supporters in Ohio back Kasich, since he has a better chance of defeating Trump in Ohio’s primary.

Still, conversations with donors suggest resistance to Trump is weakening as he increasingly looks like the nominee.

Trump himself seems to have softened his stance recently toward GOP elites. At Thursday’s GOP debate, he argued that the party should embrace his supporters, who he suggested are new Republican voters.

“Embrace these millions of people that now for the first time ever love the Republican Party. And unify,” he said.

Trump, who has disavowed super-PACs in his primary campaign, is also sending signals that he is considering accepting large-scale outside funding — which would inevitably come from mega-donors and special interests — for a general election bid. 

The Washington Post reported this week that Trump had held initial talks with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's former top fundraiser Ray Washburne about potentially leading Republican fundraising in the event of a Trump nomination.

There have also been reports that Christie told his former presidential finance committee that Trump would begin soliciting contributions as the race heads into a general election.

And Politico reported Friday that a pro-Trump super-PAC, "Great America PAC," had recruited former Rand PaulRand PaulGOP at decisive moment on Planned Parenthood Trump: ‘I cannot imagine’ GOP senators don’t back healthcare bill Sunday shows preview: Senate healthcare debate heats up MORE and Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellGOP at decisive moment on Planned Parenthood Opioid crisis threatens GOP ObamaCare repeal Trump making calls to senators on healthcare bill MORE operative Jesse Benton, indicating a growing professionalization of the group's operations. 

Pressed on his general election funding plans in Thursday night's Miami debate, Trump responded that he had not yet decided whether he would accept large donations in a general election campaign.

“I will make a decision on that, but I have not made that decision yet,” Trump said. 

“My decision was that I would go through the entire primary season and I have turned down probably $275 million worth. 

“I have many, many friends that come up all day long, $5 million and $10 million. I'm turning down money,” Trump added. 

“I feel sort of foolish, to be honest with you.”