The Memo: Trump’s money haul underscores his dominance of GOP
Money talks — and it is proclaiming that former President Trump is still far and away the biggest figure in the Republican Party.
New fundraising figures reveal Trump’s political operation is starting 2022 with $122 million in the bank.
The eye-popping figure was reached after the candidate’s various committees raised $51 million in the second half of last year — a prodigious sum even if it did constitute a slight drop-off from the numbers Trump racked up in the first six months of 2021.
His huge fundraising trawl amounted to a dousing in cold water for Trump skeptics and others who eagerly wish for his departure from the political scene.
It also puts into perspective recent media coverage that has focused on the rise of GOP rivals like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and polls showing some mild loosening of Republican voters’ attachment to the 45th president.
For liberal critics, it is reason for real alarm. Trump coined it in throughout a year that began with him inciting the worst attack on the Capitol in more than 200 years. Soon afterward, he became the first president in history to be twice impeached. He continues to claim, falsely, that the 2020 election was fraudulent.
Susan Del Percio, a Republican strategist but a strong Trump critic, expressed dismay at the new numbers.
“As someone who has been very much against a Trump candidacy every single time — in 2016 and 2020, and not looking forward to 2024 — what is very difficult is the amount of support he still has at the grassroots level,” she said.
Del Percio emphasized the amount of money Trump is still able to raise in so-called small-dollar donations. Trump’s team asserted that all but 2 percent of the donations he received in the last six months of 2021 were under $200. He received a total of about 1.6 million donations in that time, his aides claimed.
“It is one thing to show up at a free rally but it is another thing to give that $5 or $10 or $20, because that means you are bought in,” Del Percio said. “Big-dollar donors may give to three or four candidates just to cover their bases. A small-dollar donor, and he has plenty, is complete buy-in. They are with you!”
That, of course, is the point as far as Trump’s supporters are concerned. The former president released a statement Tuesday contending that the media were “doing everything in their power” not to report his money-raising prowess, despite the fact that his haul got instant and extensive coverage.
An Economist-YouGov survey conducted late last month indicated that 82 percent of Republican voters polled hold a favorable impression of Trump even as only 38 percent of the general population view him in the same positive light.
The funds Trump has raised so far cannot be officially used for a presidential campaign. But given that the money can be used for travel expenses and organizing rallies — and that the next election is almost three years away — for now that is a distinction without a difference.
One key question is how much financial largesse Trump will show toward candidates whom he is backing in the 2022 midterm elections. Trump has made many endorsements already and more are sure to come. But he has been much more frugal when it comes to dispensing dollars.
He made just $1.35 million in contributions to others in the second half of 2021, according to the newly released figures — including $1 million to an institute where his former chief of staff Mark Meadows is a senior partner.
Voices supportive of Trump argue that his campaign account is so vast, he should start dipping into it — both to support other candidates, which engenders goodwill, and to make the first steps toward setting up a campaign infrastructure for 2024 if he does intend to make a run.
“In order for him to capitalize, he needs to spend a lot of that money now, or in the next six months,” said Brad Blakeman, a veteran of former President George W. Bush’s White House and a supporter of Trump during his time in office.
“That is seed money. The seeds he sows, if they come to fruition, he will be able to reap later,” Blakeman added.
It’s far from clear that Trump would accept that argument, however. The former president and his loyalists often note that he was outspent by a significant amount when he first ran for the presidency.
That was true in the early stages of GOP primary, as Trump knocked off better financed candidates such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) but it was also true in the general election against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
According to OpenSecrets, Clinton and her campaign committees outspent Trump’s team by more than $200 million. The Democrat’s operations spent almost $564 million in all, while Trump’s effort came to a total bill of $333 million.
Within Trump’s circle, some aides make the argument that, whatever his numerous political and legal troubles, the former president is in a far stronger position now than when he was first contemplating a White House bid.
When it comes to money, it’s tough to argue otherwise.
The Memo is a reported column by Niall Stanage.