The Trump-Biden Race Turns Into a Big-Dollar Cash Scramble

Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Bast/Getty Images
Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Bast/Getty Images

With just over seven months until Election Day, and the GOP and Democratic presidential primaries functionally over, the 2024 race is entering a new phase: the frantic cash grab stage.

Both President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump are in an all-out sprint to fill up their campaign coffers ahead of what is expected to be the most expensive presidential campaign in history, with the Democrat maintaining a clear advantage over his Republican opponent.

Biden, with the help of the Democratic National Committee, has outraised Trump and the Republican National Committee for months—and there are few indications that Republicans have the infrastructure to close the gap, given the drain of Trump’s mounting legal bills, a Republican committee hollowed out by the Trump campaign, and a GOP small-dollar donor base that is showing signs of fatigue.

The Biden Campaign Is Quietly Preparing a Trump Ambush

Which is why Biden and Democrats are trying to leave Trump in the dust.

On Thursday, Biden headlined a fundraiser in New York City alongside former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, with organizers telling The Daily Beast that Democrats raised over $25 million at that single event.

Jeffrey Katzenberg, the Biden campaign co-chair, called the event “a testament to the unprecedented fundraising machine we’ve built.” And the Biden campaign has already branded the event as the “most successful political fundraiser in American history.”

But that title, if Trump has his way, will be short-lived. The Trump campaign and his associated groups plan to hold their own high-dollar fundraiser—hosted by hedge fund manager and longtime Trump supporter John Paulson—next week in Palm Beach. Organizers of the GOP event, which is being touted as a kickoff fundraising event for the campaign, told The Daily Beast they expect to top Biden’s totals and raise more than $30 million.

But if it’s an arms race with dollars as the weapons, Trump is already way behind.

Biden’s campaign ended February with $71 million in its primary account, more than double the $33 million that Trump had at the end of the month. That advantage only increases when you include the Democratic and Republican national committees, an edge Democrats have enjoyed for months.

Still, Trumpworld sources indicated to The Daily Beast that March was shaping up to be a huge month for Trump PACs. A Republican National Committee official said that Trump’s campaign and the RNC have had a strong March, with the Trump campaign raising over $1 million a day online for six days in a row. And the same official claimed that Trump’s “Trump Save America” joint fundraising committee raked in an incredible $32 million in digital fundraising this month. That money will be divvied up between the Trump campaign and his “Save America” leadership PAC—the group that now operates as a default personal legal fund for the former President.

When pressed on their fundraising issues, however, another Republican official pointed to an NBC story from September claiming Biden was behind on small-dollar fundraising. Since that story published, Biden’s associated groups have consistently and significantly outraised Trump and Republicans, an advantage that threatens to hamper GOP field operations this election year.

Trump’s PAC Burned $230,000 a Day on Legal Bills in February

“It’s untenable,” a top Republican operative said of the current state of GOP fundraising. “It’s one thing to be outraised by $5 or $10 million total. It’s quite another where you’re outraised by multiples. That has a real effect on your efforts to run a national campaign, hold events, and have staff to actually do basic blocking and tackling.”

Republicans closely aligned with Trump reject the idea that Biden’s fundraising advantage will keep the former president from re-entering the White House.

“We will be outspent this year, but guess what, when you have the people on your side, you can easily overcome that and we will do so,” a Trump adviser told The Daily Beast on Thursday. While the Trump campaign already appears to be presenting the prospect of Democrats outraising Republicans as no big deal, it’s an unexpected acknowledgment—particularly at this stage of the campaign—but it’s apparently a widespread admission.

“We will never be able to match dollar for dollar what the Democrats and their billion-dollar donor buddies do,” said another top Trump adviser.

“We are going to have what we need to win” and are “very bullish on our fundraising going forward,” this second Trump adviser said.

Even with Trump’s supposedly $30 million event on the calendar, some Republicans in Washington are worried about several factors holding the former president and Republicans back in the battle for campaign dollars.

First is the substantial amount Republicans are spending to defend Trump in court. Save America, the leadership PAC supporting the former president, has spent millions defending Trump in court, including more than $50 million last year and more than $5 million in February alone. He’s currently spending about $230,000 a day—and that figure is unlikely to shrink as Trump’s legal issues continue and his hush money trial in New York begins in April.

Second, Democrats have turned the once-beleaguered Democratic National Committee into a fundraising behemoth, largely powered by their voters’ deeply held antipathy toward Trump.

Ever since Trump was elected in 2016, Democrats have held a significant small-dollar fundraising advantage over Republicans, an edge that has only grown in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in 2022. To make matters worse for the GOP, party insiders have been worried for years that the small-dollar donor base that helped power Trump to the White House in 2016 is losing its power and has grown fatigued by repeated requests.

The RNC’s Fundraising Hole Is Even Deeper Than It Looks

Third, the Republican National Committee is in the midst of upheaval after Trump’s campaign forced former chair Ronna McDaniel out and fired scores of party employees, including high-ranking officials at the committee. The moves, according to multiple party insiders, have left the committee in a difficult position at a critical time, even as those close to Trump argue they will be hiring hundreds of staff in the coming months.

“They should not be firing, they should be building,” said a top Republican with knowledge of the committee, who added that the recent moves were all about wanting total control over the committee, not about what is best for the presidential campaign or the party’s future.

Steven Cheung, Trump’s top spokesperson, rejected the idea that the party was struggling to raise money, arguing that their “digital online fundraising continues to skyrocket” and that their “major donor investments are climbing.”

All the same, these high-dollar fundraisers—both for Biden and for Trump—demonstrate how fundraising has already become a central element of the 2024 race.

For Democrats, Biden’s $25 million night at Radio City Music Hall is an opportunity on multiple fronts. For one, the money raised actually eclipsed what the Trump campaign raised in both January and February.

But for another, there’s a potent political message in the gathering of 5,000 high-dollar donors.

Three presidents—two former, and one current—will be working hand-in-hand to ensure that Trump doesn’t make it back to the White House. The fundraiser will give Biden and his predecessors a chance to highlight just how little Trump’s own former cabinet officials and top aides—let alone a former Republican president like George W. Bush—support his 2024 run.

“As of today,” former Trump White House communications director—and now anti-Trump co-host of The View—Alyssa Farah Griffin told The Daily Beast Thursday night, “the only living person who has previously served on a GOP presidential ticket that is be backing Trump is… Sarah Palin.”

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