President Donald Trump skipped all of his campaign’s virtual fundraisers in the first few months of the coronavirus pandemic while mocking Democratic nominee Joe Biden for appearing from his basement. But it looks like Biden might be laughing all the way to the bank.
Trump’s receipts from high-dollar donors plunged 61% in the second quarter, to just $27 million, as he declined to appear on a livestream.
Biden’s big-donor committee took in more than three times as much — $86.4 million — after launching in late April. He attended almost all of the events virtually, talks to donors and invites reporters to listen in.
Trump Victory, which raises money in chunks of a maximum $580,600, took in $64 million in the first quarter. But once social-distancing and lockdown orders spread across the country, Trump held just a few in-person events that gave donors face time with the president.
But the fundraising committee is upping its virtual game. Trump Victory held its first virtual fundraiser with the president on Tuesday, raising $20 million from 300,000 donors who could view the event by donating as little as $45.
Before that, surrogates like Kimberly Guilfoyle, chairwoman of Trump Victory and girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr., and Republican National Committee Co-Chairman Tommy Hicks, hosted virtual events with donors.
Early on, the campaign boasted about its ability to snap into virtual mode as soon as the outbreak hit, releasing weekly schedules of daily online programming with campaign surrogates like presidential daughter-in-law Lara Trump and Tea Party activist Katrina Pierson. While the campaign reached out to critical voter groups, including women, Blacks and Latinos, it didn’t connect the president with wealthy donors.
The few in-person events and the failure to get the president to connect with big donors virtually caused the second-quarter donation slump, according to a GOP fundraiser who asked not to be identified because he doesn’t speak for the campaign.
Without Trump headlining the event, the campaign doesn’t ask donors to contribute the maximum amount, or anywhere near it, the fundraiser said.
Trump is also trailing Biden in polls of voters nationally and in key electoral states by an average of about 9 percentage points as the country remains wracked by the coronavirus and a sagging economy.
The drop in support helped Biden top the president in second-quarter fundraising. Some 61% of the money the Biden Victory Fund collected in the second quarter came in amounts of $50,000 or more. Biden’s combined total second-quarter haul, including from his campaign, the Democratic National Committee and the fund, was $282 million, compared with $266 million Trump and his committees took in.
Biden is also spending less money than Trump, helping the Democrat narrow the advantage of the president’s re-election war chest, which he began building shortly after his 2016 election. In just two months, Biden narrowed the gap by about $100 million, and has $242 million in the bank compared with $296 million for Trump.
“While Joe Biden had nothing to do but fundraise, President Trump was leading the nation through an unprecedented crisis,” said Ken Farnaso, deputy national press secretary for the Trump campaign, noting that Trump has raised close to $1 billion for his re-election effort, far more than Biden has.
Trump is hosting in-person high-dollar fundraisers in the next few weeks in Miami and Tampa, Florida, as well as Odessa, Texas, a center of the oil industry. Tickets for those events range from $2,800 to $100,000 for a chance to eat lunch, join a roundtable or take a photo with the president.
Trump’s woes with big donors extend to outside groups as well. Three super PACs backing Biden – Priorities USA Action, Unite the Country and AB PAC – outraised Trump’s lone authorized super PAC, America First Action, $43.6 million to $17.7 million in the second quarter.
America First Policies, a related nonprofit that doesn’t have to report fundraising totals to the Federal Election Commission, raised $7.9 million in the second quarter, according to its spokeswoman.
“No one could have anticipated the economic shock to our economy this spring due to the coronavirus, so of course that impacted our fundraising numbers,” said Kelly Sadler, communications director at America First Action. “We didn’t push donors in May but we began moving forward in June. Every day we are on the phone with donors and prospects reporting our activities and soliciting new contributions.”
Sadler said the super PAC and nonprofit had commitments of about $63.8 million and $55.2 million cash on hand. She said that funding “ebbs and flows” every month, and added that the group had already paid all of its operating expenses for this year, so that the remainder of the cash that flows will be spent solely to beat Biden.
While his big donor support faded in the second quarter, Trump continued to raise more money from contributors who give less than $200. His campaign, the Republican National Committee and their joint small-dollar donor fundraising vehicle took in $145 million from small-dollar donors in the second quarter. That topped the $89 million that Biden and his allies raised from Democratic grassroots givers.