Donald Trump has surprised most political analysts with his primary victories. No one saw the fusion of populism and celebrity as likely to succeed. Yet, succeed he did. However, a new challenge awaits the Trump campaign, one for which he may not be well equipped. New reports indicate that his campaign is far behind the Clinton campaign in one important category: fundraising.[/dropcap]
May FEC filings show the Trump campaign raised only $6 million in May, a month in which the Clinton campaign brought in more than $26 million. In terms of cash on hand, Trump had around $1.29 million, compared to Clinton’s $42 million. Coupled with the expensive, contentious primary, fundraising troubles may mean serious trouble for the campaign up ahead. As with many political issues, though, it’s too soon to tell. There are a few reasons why the money deficit may not be as hurtful to Trump as some analysts suggest.
First, the primary purpose of fundraising is advertising purchase. Candidates pay to get their name and face on as many TVs, newspapers, and billboards as possible. Donald Trump’s celebrity gets him that kind of exposure already. His every move is carefully documented for a public that can’t seem to get enough of him. That free publicity saves the Trump campaign millions. While it won’t erase the $40+ million dollar gap, it will go a long way toward alleviating it.
Second, many major donors may be waiting until after the convention to make a donation. Should the Republican party succeed in preventing Trump from getting the nomination, donations made to his campaign will be dead money. If, on the other hand, Trump wins the nomination, traditional Republican backers will likely open their wallets to fund the campaign.
Third, unlike other candidates, Trump doesn’t need to rely exclusively on donors to finance his campaign. He has considerable personal assets that he could tap to minimize these financial woes. To this point, he remains his own biggest supporter, with $43 million of his $65 million raised coming from personal contributions. This suggests he may be holding off on tapping into a network of contributors until his nomination is more secure.
It’s easy to forget at this point in the election season that there’s still quite a ways to go before Election Day. That’s plenty of time for the dynamics of the race to change fundamentally. As major donors are forced to consider Trump a serious candidate, they may decide to open up their wallets, and, in doing so, open up the race.