There are a lot of news stories this week relating to the May campaign reports, and in particular the pitiful amount of cash on hand that Donald Trump has. What’s also interesting is not just that he doesn’t have much, but that it’s also impacting the Republican Party’s campaign chest. In contrast, Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party seem to be doing quite well. There’s more than a little irony in this.
The reason I say “irony” is that for much of the primary season, Hillary was being attacked from the left, as well as from the Sanders campaign, for her fundraising. This was evidence of “corruption,” according to them, even though there were reasons why massive fundraising was taking place. While one can decry the fact that there is so much money being pumped into the political process, and wish it wasn’t the case, the reality is that for now, it’s necessary. In fact, even when one talks about the potential for “public financing,” or strictly regulating political spending, there is still the fact that running a campaign costs money. As I pointed out in my previous post, even a small local election will have some costs.
Now multiply that to a national campaign, and hundreds of Senate, House, and state contests. You need staff, you need campaign materials, advertising, web sites, travel, and a thousand other expenses. It costs a lot of money, and if you’re a political party, the person at the top of the ticket is going to be responsible for a lot of that. One of the things that the Trump fundraising stories have brought out is just how much that’s relied on.
As the Republican National Committee — which also saw a drop in its May fundraising compared to 2012 — is forced to prop up Trump’s rickety campaign apparatus, it means less money will be passed down to congressional committees and to state parties. It also means less money to finance the party’s crucial but costly get-out-the-vote efforts.
Which is causing a lot of panic in Republican circles. What makes it even worse is that Trump doesn’t really have a campaign organization to help them. Now contrast that with what Hillary has done. She’s been working the ground game since announcing. Raising funds not just for herself, but for the Party and down ticket races. Her campaign has staffers in all the states, and is rapidly ramping up even more. She’s been running a national campaign, and building up for a year, while Trump isn’t even at the starting point.
Looking ahead, this can mean very good things for Democrats this year. While anything is possible, the difference between virtually starting from scratch now versus building up from a solid foundation makes it a difficult barrier to overcome. A lot of Republican candidates are realizing “you’re on your own” when it comes to this election, and much of the support they were relying on is not going to be there.
That doesn’t mean that it’s “in the bag,” or that we can relax. There’s a lot of time left, and as history has shown, things can change. But I do feel a lot more optimistic about this coming election. For the first time in a very long time, the Republicans are starting out much weaker financially, and their organization is in disarray. It’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out for them, but I don’t think it’ll be good. But on the “I told you so,” one of the lessons the “left of the Left” should be taking away is that raising money and funding local parties is necessary …. not corruption.