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If you’re a Republican fundraiser, the last 48 hours have been illuminating—and even encouraging if you had assumed a certain ex-President would have an unbeatable advantage in fundraising.
During the span between his announcement on Nov. 15 that he would again seek the GOP nomination for the White House and the end of the calendar year, Donald Trump raised $9.5 million, according to campaign finance reports filed Tuesday. An impressive haul, sure, but far less than other candidates have managed when looked at through the lens of totals raised by day. As The New York Times smartly assessed, Trump’s pace trailed by half the first-round reports from the likes of Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney, and Hillary Clinton.
Setting aside the pace of check-collecting, the Trump campaign and its affiliated committee had less than $7 million banked—that may seem like a lot of money, but it’s fairly anemic considering he raised $250 million between his 2020 presidential loss and the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol that sought to undo the results of the election. For someone presumed to be the frontrunner for the nomination in 2024, Trump doesn’t exactly have an insurmountable lead in the money race, which further fuels talk among conservatives that there is an opening for an alternative candidate.
Other possible contenders are showing far greater signs of potential in their reports. Sen. Marco Rubio, who is always harboring White House ambitions, raised more than $43 million for his Senate re-election bid last year in Florida and is sitting on $3.1 million. Similarly, Sen. Ted Cruz, who wasn’t in-cycle in 2022, has raised $33 million since his last campaign and heads into an expected re-election bid next year with $3.4 million banked. And Sen. Tim Scott, who cruised to re-election in South Carolina last year by a 2-to-1 margin, raised a walloping $43 million and is sitting on $21.8 million.
And those are just the federal incumbents. Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, reportedly set to join the presidential field in two weeks, scooped up more than $17 million last year through her political arm and is sitting on $2 million. Former Rep. Liz Cheney’s political operation raised more than $17 million and has $3.6 million banked should she decide to throw her name in the mix. And former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s organization came close to $9 million in receipts and has $1.1 million at the ready.
Then there are the state-level incumbents, whose previous fundraising hauls can’t easily be converted in federal dollars but show deep reservoirs of goodwill with the deep-pocketed crowd. The likes of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ($217 million) and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (at least $134 million) have proven able to raise tons of cash, while others like Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin haven’t been shy about funding their own efforts ($21 million out-of-pocket for his 2021 race).
Money, of course, isn’t everything in politics. But it’s a pretty good barometer of viability. And with Trump perceived in some corners as unbeatable, his lackluster fundraising may be yet the latest sign that his shell has some cracks. That said, it’s not clear that Trump was really even trying to raise cash. After all, he largely was invisible beyond the errant social media outbursts between his declaration that he was running and last weekend’s first toe-dip into New Hampshire and South Carolina. During his 2020 race, he collected almost $812 million—a sum that’s as eye-popping as anything on his rap sheet. All told, Trump has raised $1.2 billion in increments of $200 or less since starting his presidential run in 2015, which again suggests Trump can be a powerhouse fundraiser when he wants to be. He just hasn’t done himself any favors in getting into the 2024 race while his financial footing looks so wobbly.
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