Trump's fundraisers see no chance of hitting $1 billion – Politico
Donald Trump’s top financiers are slashing their fundraising expectations and warning the GOP’s presumptive nominee could find himself massively out-gunned by Hillary Clinton.
In interviews, over a dozen major Republican Party donors and fundraisers who’ve signed on to help Trump raise money said they expected Trump to net only a fraction of his original $1 billion goal, perhaps netting less than a third of that.
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Trump himself is already starting to distance himself from the $1 billion goal, telling Bloomberg News that he doesn’t need that much to win. But his refusal to commit to raise even half of that reflects reluctance among the GOP’s benefactors to collect cash on his behalf. Many of them say he might have trouble raising even $300 million.
That would almost certainly leave Trump at a steep disadvantage: Clinton is widely expected to hit the $1 billion mark, as President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney did in 2012. And it could have serious ripple-effects, leaving Republican down-ballot candidates, who are dependent on the national party to mount a well-funded turnout operation, in the lurch.
The dire predictions come as Trump and his top fundraisers prepare to meet Thursday in New York City to discuss the path forward. One person who plans on attending said a number of topics were likely to be on the agenda, including scheduling and overall goals. The gathering is expected to bring together many of those who’ve signed on to help a joint Trump and Republican National Committee account.
Those involved in the effort concede that Trump, a political newcomer who lacks the national fundraising network major party nominees typically have, is far behind.
“It’s going to be different,” said Gaylord Hughey, a prominent Texas bundler who is raising money for the joint fundraising account. “A lot of the things we’re doing from a fundraising perspective are usually done earlier in the campaign, as opposed to when one is on the verge of being the nominee.”
Another problem: Trump has so far resisted the donor stroking and courtship that presidential candidates traditionally engage in.
“He’s not your typical politician who dials for dollars every day,” said Ray Washburne, a former RNC finance chair who’s helping the New York businessman, adding that Trump is leaning heavily on the national party for donor outreach. “He’s not hitting the phones every day.”
Perhaps the biggest hurdle, though, is that Trump is reviled by much of the donor class, who consider him as an unpredictable bomb-thrower. Many say they simply don’t want to have anything to do with him.
“He isn’t personally loved by most of the Republican donors. When you compare Mitt Romney to Donald Trump, Donald Trump says all these outrageous things. People are really concerned about what he’ll do as president. There’s just a lot of negativity about Trump as a person,” said Dale Dykema, a major GOP contributor who recently contributed to the RNC and who is supporting a Trump super PAC. “When he comes out with these crazy things, like with the judge, people just want to turn off.”
Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks did not respond to a request for comment.
Last month, in launching the Trump Victory joint fundraising committee, the RNC unveiled a list of nearly two dozen vice chairs and trustees who were tasked with helping raise money. Many of those involved, though, say they’ve since turned downright morose about their role. Some have been confronted with complaints from family members – “How could you?” one reported their children asking – while others say coming out in support of Trump have left them feeling vulnerable for their personal safety. Others say they signed on to help out of loyalty to the party but are struggling to stay motivated.
Some say they’ve considered quitting. Others said they’ve done little to help the fund, but allowed the RNC to use their name because the committee asked.
“They asked me to agree to serve as a trustee, and I’ve agreed to do that,” said Hushang Ansary, a Houston businessman and former U.S. ambassador.
“They asked me to do it, and I said yes,” said Charles Urstadt, a Connecticut real estate investor.
Those who are playing an active role find themselves searching for ways to appeal to weary donors, many of whom were shaken by Trump’s ferocious attack on a federal judge over his Mexican heritage.
One pitch: asking for checks to be written to the RNC and not to Trump. That way, a contributor’s name won’t appear on the campaign’s federal campaign finance filings.
To address the emerging shortfall, Trump – who once blasted the influence of big money in politics – is considering leaning heavily on super PACs. The campaign may give its informal blessing to as many as two outside groups, according to two senior Trump advisers. One, overseen by California venture capitalist and longtime Trump friend Tom Barrack, launched its first national TV commercial this week – a 30-second spot that goes after the Clintons. The group has hired veteran Republican strategist Alex Castellanos, and will be meeting in Washington, DC later this week with potential pollsters and digital ad makers.
The campaign’s interest has also been piqued by Robert Mercer, a billionaire New York hedge fund manager who was one of Ted Cruz’s primary funders and may also be interested in launching a Trump super PAC, according to a campaign official. A Mercer spokesperson declined to comment.
Yet another group may be in the works. Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson’s top aides have been in talks with a group of prominent strategists, including former Republican Governors Association Executive Director Nick Ayers, about starting a Trump super PAC. The group, should it come to fruition, would likely receive much of its funding from Adelson, who spent more than $100 million in 2012 and has vocally endorsed Trump. The group has also been in talks with Texas donor Doug Deason, who initially supported Cruz.
Trump, though, isn’t giving up on fundraising. On Tuesday afternoon, he dispatched his son, Donald Trump Jr., to appear on a conference call with a group of Texas fundraisers who’ve agreed to help him in the state, which for years has been considered something of an ATM for Republican candidates. Trump is expected to attend several fundraisers in the state next week, and among those who are expected to assist him in Texas: Tom Hicks Jr., whose father formerly owned the Rangers baseball franchise.
At RNC headquarters in Capitol Hill, Chairman Reince Priebus isn’t quitting, either. Priebus, a prolific texter, has been burning up his cell phone, pursuing fundraisers and donors who might be interested in helping the presumptive nominee. The chairman has been dangling titles for donors based on how much they’re willing to give, ranging from “trustee” to “Trump train.”
An RNC spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Not everyone is convinced Trump needs to hit $1 billion – or even close.
Wilbur Ross, a billionaire investor who is working with Trump, argued that the mogul already had formidable grassroots support and that going forward he would only have to focus narrowly on building a professional ground game.
“The amount needed for that probably is smaller than $500 million,” he said.
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