Trump, Biden conserve cash ahead of fall battle

Trump, Biden conserve cash ahead of fall battle

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden to nominate Linda Thomas-Greenfield for UN ambassador: reports Scranton dedicates 'Joe Biden Way' to honor president-elect Kasich: Republicans 'either in complete lockstep' or 'afraid' of Trump MORE and President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden to nominate Linda Thomas-Greenfield for UN ambassador: reports Scranton dedicates 'Joe Biden Way' to honor president-elect Kasich: Republicans 'either in complete lockstep' or 'afraid' of Trump MORE are holding on tightly to their campaign cash amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In April, the first full month in which the candidates conducted their campaigns almost entirely online, Biden spent only a fraction of what he spent a month earlier when his campaign dropped nearly $32.5 million of its $46.7 million fundraising haul.

Of the more than $43.6 million the former vice president brought in last month, he spent less than $13 million of it, giving him a burn rate of about 30 percent, according to the latest batch of Federal Election Commission filings released this week.

Trump, meanwhile, saw a less drastic drop in spending. His campaign alone raised just under $17 million in April, though it spent only $7.7 million of it — a burn rate of about 46 percent, his federal filings show.

The reason for the spending reductions is two-fold. The candidates are no longer spending money on expenses such as travel and venues for rallies and other events amid the pandemic. But at a time when economic uncertainty has at least somewhat disrupted the flow of donations to the campaigns, they are holding tight to their money in an effort to build up their campaign accounts ahead of the expectedly expensive fall campaign season.

Still, the spending drop is one more sign of how campaigns are grappling with an election year crisis with no precedent in recent history.

Biden and Trump’s combined spending in April — about $20.7 million — was more than $14 million less than what Democratic candidate Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden to name longtime aide Blinken as secretary of State: report Understanding mixed results in Pennsylvania key to future elections What's behind the divisions over Biden's secretary of Labor? MORE and Trump spent on their campaigns in the same month four years ago. At the time, however, both candidates were still locked in primary races.

Since mid-March, the candidates have relied almost exclusively on digital platforms to reach voters and donors amid the coronavirus pandemic.

But a turbulent stock market, widespread business closures and stinging unemployment numbers have complicated fundraising for many candidates, who are in the difficult position of asking for contributions at a time when many donors are reluctant to part with their money.

The Biden campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) raised a combined $60.5 million in April, largely keeping pace with the $61.7 million raised by the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee (RNC).

Still, the $60.5 million haul last month is nearly $20 million less than what Biden and the DNC raised in March.

Trump and the RNC saw a less significant dip in fundraising. Together, they raked in about $63 million in March.

While the candidates’ themselves have been tightfisted with their campaign cash, there are signs that outside groups are ramping up their spending. Pacronym, a liberal super PAC affiliated with the political nonprofit Acronym, spent more than $2.3 million in April, its highest outlay of the year so far and its largest month-over-month increase of 2020 to date.

Likewise, Priorities USA Action, the largest Democratic super PAC, saw its spending tick up to nearly $5 million last month, making April its biggest month for spending this year.

On the Republican side, America First Action, a super PAC backing Trump, dropped more than $8 million in April. By comparison, the group spent less than $2.2 million across the first three months of the year, according to its federal filings.

The parties’ spending habits also didn’t change much in April. The DNC reported $10.7 million in disbursements last month, close to the roughly $11 million it spent in March. And the RNC boosted its spending from $23.7 million in March to about $27 million in April.

For Biden, travel-related costs — including expenses such as transportation, vehicle rentals, lodging and fuel — accounted for only about $300,000 of his total spending in April. A month earlier, those same expenses accounted for about $1.35 million of the campaign’s spending, FEC filings covering March and April show.

But even Biden’s spending on digital advertising — one of the few ways for the former vice president to reach voters amid the pandemic — saw a significant decline, falling from more than $1.5 million in March to about $630,000 in April.

One reason for that drop may be because Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersDemocrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks What's behind the divisions over Biden's secretary of Labor? Young voters set turnout record, aiding Biden win MORE (I-Vt.), Biden’s last remaining primary challenger, ended his campaign in early April, leaving Biden as the presumptive Democratic nominee and reducing the need for him to advertise heavily.

But Sanders’s decision to suspend his campaign effectively marked the beginning of the general election campaign between Biden and Trump, who faced no serious opposition in the GOP’s nominating contest. The former vice president’s decision to slash digital spending in April suggests a larger effort to conserve funds for later in the year.

Biden’s reported cash on hand saw its largest month-over-month increase in April, jumping from about $26.4 million in March to $57.1 million at the end of last month.

Trump saw a less substantial rise in his campaign’s overall cash on hand, though he still holds a massive financial advantage over Biden. Between the end of March and the end of April, the president’s campaign went from having $98.5 million in the bank to about $107.7 million.

Biden's and Trump’s account totals are a sign of just how expensive the 2020 presidential election is expected to be. At this point in her 2016 presidential campaign, Clinton had about $30.2 million in the bank, while Trump had a scant $2.4 million. By the time that race ended in November 2016, the price tag came out to nearly $2.4 billion, according to a cost estimate from the Center for Responsive Politics.

This year’s presidential race is expected to be costlier. A report from the ad-tracking firm Advertising Analytics released last week pegged the current cost of political advertising and media in the presidential contest alone at $2.2 billion — and that doesn’t include other expenses that campaigns incur throughout the course of an election cycle.