Between Donald Trump’s steady unpopularity and manifest unfitness for office, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that he is likely to be re-elected. At least according to most electoral models, which find the president cruising toward victory by a “not-trivial margin,” pending some sort of economic catastrophe. Predicting the future is impossible, of course, and betting on the outcome is a sucker’s game. (For what it’s worth, betting markets currently favor the Democratic aspirants.) Still, the early 2020 race is generating more data points all the time, and most of them appear to favor Trump.
The latest data of note comes via the Trump campaign, which provided several news organizations with a preview of its monster first-quarter fund-raising haul: $30.3 million, about as much as the top two Democratic fund-raisers, Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris, combined. Perhaps more disconcerting, nearly 99 percent of Trump donations were reportedly $200 or less, with an average donation of $34.26. For comparison, that’s a smaller-dollar average donor amount than Beto O’Rourke ($43), Harris (roughly $55), and Pete Buttigieg (about $36). Among Democrats, only the grassroots champion Sanders does better, with an average donation of $20 in Q1 2019. If average donation size is any kind of indicator of populist appeal, Trump appears to be dominating. According to R.N.C. Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, Trump has added 1 million new online donors since his inauguration, including 100,000 since the beginning of this year.
Some of these numbers are apples and oranges. Wealthier donors have plenty of other ways to support Trump, such as donating to the Republican National Committee or associated Trump super PACs, whereas many of the Democratic presidential candidates have renounced money from corporate PACs and federal lobbyists. There are also nearly 20 Democrats in the 2020 primary, divvying up the pool of available money. It’s still the early days, and it’s not hard to imagine that lots of money is waiting on the sidelines until an obvious front-runner emerges. The Democratic hopeful currently leading in most primary polling, Joe Biden, hasn’t even entered the race yet.
Nevertheless, it does appear that the Democrats are currently underperforming. At this same point in 2007, a much smaller field of Democratic candidates had raised a similar amount, with Barack Obama raising $25.7 million and Hillary Clinton raising $26.1 million. The most impressive first-quarter Democratic fund-raiser of the 2020 cycle, Sanders, has raised $18.2 million.
Veteran Democratic moneymen aren’t worried that the spigots will open once the field narrows. “People shouldn’t overreact to the totality of the numbers,” longtime fund-raiser Tom Nides recently told The Washington Post. “The Democrats—whoever is the nominee—will ultimately have plenty of money to raise and win against Trump. That I’m sure of.” After a remarkable 2018 election cycle, when a surge of grassroots support helped Democrats flip dozens of Republicans seats and take back the House, the presumption is that Democratic voters are simply remaining cautious until it’s clearer where they should place their bets.
In the meantime, however, Trump is amassing an intimidating general-election war chest, which he can continue to build while Democrats waste money taking potshots at each other in the primaries. According to NBC News, the Trump campaign has more than $40 million cash on hand. “Combined with $46 million raised by the Republican National Committee, the full Trump re-election effort is expected to have a grand total of $82 million in the bank, with the campaign doubling what it had at the end of last year.” Given his advantages as an incumbent president, Trump won’t have to spend a dime to command air time, propagate his message, or hold what are essentially campaign rallies at taxpayers’ expense.
Source: The Hive