Trump has rapidly eroded Biden’s edge in 2024 cash battle

Former President Donald Trump, the presumed Republican presidential nominee, during a campaign rally at the Racine Festival Park in Racine, Wis., Tuesday, June 18, 2024. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)

Former President Donald Trump outraised President Joe Biden for the second consecutive month in May, outpacing his successor by roughly $81 million in donations over the last two months as he rode a surge of financial support after his felony conviction.

Less than two months after Biden’s shared operation with the Democratic National Committee had a roughly $100 million cash advantage over Trump and the Republican National Committee, the situation is now reversed, according to the two campaigns.

ADVERTISING


Biden entered June with $212 million on hand combined with the party. The Trump operation and RNC had $235 million, the campaign said.

Trump’s joint operation had outraised Biden’s by $141 million to $85 million in May, after bringing in $25 million more than the Biden team in April.

Trump’s principal campaign committee also had more cash than Biden’s: $116.5 million to $91.6 million, according to Federal Election Commission filings.

The full accounting of both sides’ finances will be made public in federal filings next month. But the combination of Trump’s improved fundraising and Biden’s heavier spending on advertising this spring appears to put the two sides on a path to enter the summer relatively close to financial parity.

“Yes, Trump is raising a lot more money now, and that should scare people,” said Brian Derrick, a strategist who founded a Democratic fundraising platform called Oath. “But at the end of the day, Biden has the funds that he needs to run a really strong campaign.”

Trump has narrowed the gap by bringing in a deluge of online donations after his criminal conviction in New York on May 30. In the minutes after the verdict, guilty on 34 felony counts, contributions came in so fast that they briefly overwhelmed the Republican Party’s online donation portal, WinRed.

The Trump campaign has said it raised $53 million online in the first 24 hours and $70 million in the first 48 hours after the verdict. The conviction uncorked a gusher of mega-donations, too, including a $50 million contribution from reclusive billionaire Timothy Mellon to a pro-Trump super PAC the day after the verdict.

At the conclusion of the Republican primary race, the Biden campaign and its allies had argued that for all of the president’s electoral vulnerabilities — nagging inflation, poor approval ratings, lingering concerns about his age — one clear advantage would be cash. Even if that edge has since evaporated, the Biden campaign says it used its early financial lead to build out a political infrastructure in battleground states that will pay dividends in November. On Thursday, the campaign announced that it had hired its 1,000th staff member across 200 offices in those states.

“What’s in his FEC report does not translate to boots on the ground tomorrow,” Dan Kanninen, Biden’s battleground states director, said in an interview. “That was built over time that Donald Trump cannot get back.”

Steven Cheung, Trump’s communications director, said that Biden had wasted money on ineffective television advertising.

“President Trump’s record-breaking fundraising numbers prove Crooked Joe Biden’s witch hunts against President Trump, skyrocketing inflation, and the illegal border invasion have united the American people around the fact that another four years of Biden will mean the end of our country,” Cheung said.

Money alone is rarely determinative in big races, like for the presidency, because voters are already well-informed about the candidates. But some of the most important voters this year appear to be those who have tuned out — and breaking through to them can cost considerable money. For months, Trump and his allies simply did not have the money to reach these voters.

While Trump’s path to the Republican nomination was hardly bruising, he emerged from the primary race in relatively poor financial shape compared with Biden’s operation, which had been squirreling away money for nearly a year.

Biden had consolidated his party’s biggest donors. Trump had not done so on his side.

But that slow start also gave Trump much more room to grow. In the weeks after he dispatched Nikki Haley, his final Republican rival, Trump bundlers described an almost furtive effort to get back into his good graces.

A fundraising dinner at Trump’s Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago, in mid-February, a few weeks before Haley’s exit, served as an important inflection point as Trump fundraisers signaled to wavering donors that the time for indecision was coming to a close. A fundraising dinner hosted by John Paulson, a hedge-fund billionaire, raised $50 million, the campaign has said. And in just the last month, well-to-do holdouts including Blackstone co-founder Stephen A. Schwarzman have signaled that they plan to support Trump.

Wrapping up the nomination also allowed Trump to form a joint fundraising committee with national and state Republican parties, a seemingly technical step that meant he could suddenly raise hundreds of thousands of dollars more from each donor. Biden had been raising money in those larger increments for many months.

Online contributions will be increasingly crucial going forward because the campaigns cannot tap their largest donors for repeat contributions. And Trump’s base appears to have been highly animated by his conviction. His campaign said one-quarter of the contributors in May were new.

The question for Trump is how many of those people become repeat contributors. The Biden campaign has aggressively cultivated online recurring contributors, a group that accounted for $5.5 million in April and more than that in May, though the campaign did not provide a specific figure.

So far, Biden has enjoyed a tremendous advertising advantage over Trump.

From the beginning of the year through this month, Biden’s operation had aired or reserved roughly $35.4 million in the top six battleground states. Trump’s operation had aired essentially nothing in those states, about $60,000 in ads, according to records from AdImpact, a media tracking firm.

Trump advisers say the fact that Biden has spent tens of millions of dollars in key states without altering the trajectory of the race bodes ill for the president’s chances in November.

Fundraisers for Biden insist that they will maintain their upper hand when outside groups are accounted for. The constellation of pro-Biden super PACs and nonprofit groups outspent Trump allies by roughly 50% across the six most contested battlegrounds, according to AdImpact’s data.

Still, that Biden dominance of the airwaves is not likely to continue.

Trump’s main super PAC, Make America Great Again Inc., and its nonprofit arm, which can keep its donors secret, paid nearly $17 million in the first half of the year for ads in Pennsylvania, the only battleground where it made a significant investment.

But this week, MAGA Inc. began reserving nearly $30 million in airtime starting in early July in Pennsylvania and Georgia, as part of what it has said will be a $100 million summer advertising blitz. Other pro-Trump super PACs are beginning to plan advertising pushes, too.

Democratic fundraisers for Biden said that they expected Trump to eventually catch up and had received such guidance explicitly from Rufus Gifford, the campaign’s top fundraising official, at recent briefings. One Biden bundler compared the 2024 race to the summer of 2012, when Mitt Romney steadily chipped away at President Barack Obama’s fundraising lead.

Other Democratic allies have been more taken aback by the recent turn of events, speculating that the lasting political impact of Trump’s conviction will not be on voters but on donors.

“It’s nerve-wracking to see the money race even out,” said Jon Reinish, a Democratic political strategist. “That was supposed to be one of Biden’s real advantages. He’s also been spending money for months and that doesn’t seem to be moving the needle much in terms of polling. Hopefully that changes as we get even closer.”

For now, Biden is racing to replenish his coffers in June. He held a $30 million event in Los Angeles with Obama and Hollywood stars, as well as an $8 million backyard fundraiser on Tuesday at the home of Terry McAuliffe, the former Virginia governor, with former President Bill Clinton among those in attendance.

Others are hoping that Biden surrogates can help raise money.

On the day of the first general-election debate next week, three leading Democratic governors — Andy Beshear of Kentucky, JB Pritzker of Illinois and Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan — will be in Los Angeles for a fundraiser.

At the same time, a wide range of Republican vice presidential hopefuls will headline a debate-watch party in Atlanta that will double as a fundraiser.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Star-Advertiser's TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email hawaiiwarriorworld@staradvertiser.com.