Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis Dominate GOP Fundraising

Former President Donald Trump prepares to speak at a Nevada Republican volunteer recruiting event on July 8, 2023, in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Happy Friday! And a lucky day for whomever left the bag of cocaine in the White House! “The Secret Service said FBI lab results from the packaging found ‘insufficient DNA’ and could not retrieve any fingerprints,” CNN reports. “Therefore, the Secret Service is not able to compare evidence against the known pool of individuals,” the USSS said in a statement.

Up to Speed

  • After the annual inflation rate peaked at 9.1 percent a year ago, it fell to 3.0 percent in June, a good sign for the U.S. economy and the lowest mark in over two years. But according to a recent poll from Reuters/Ipsos, President Joe Biden’s approval rating on the economy remains at a stagnant 40 percent.
  • On Thursday, Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin has “already lost” his war against Ukraine. “I think that there is going to be a circumstance where eventually, President Putin is going to decide it’s not in the interest of Russia—economically, politically or otherwise—to continue this war. But I can’t predict exactly how that happens.”
  • American Action Network and Congressional Leadership Fund, the issue advocacy group and super PAC, respectively, aligned with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and supportive of House Republicans’ 2024 campaigns, announced Thursday raising a combined $35 million in the first six months of this year—significantly more than the $21.6 million collected in the first six months of the previous off-year, 2021.
  • A New York appeals court ordered the state on Thursday to redraw its congressional map. The ruling will allow the largely Democratic state legislature to redraw district lines previously determined by a neutral court-appointed expert, a change that could flip as many as six House seats currently held by Republicans, according to the New York Times. Republicans plan to appeal the decision.
  • At a campaign stop in Hanover, New Hampshire, this week, Nikki Haley told The Dispatch’s David M. Drucker that she isn’t worried about where she stands in the presidential primary race. “I am comfortable with every benchmark I’m hitting. I fully expect us to stay where we are until midfall,” Haley said in New Hampshire this week. “Then, by midfall, it’ll start to shake up after the debates, after things start to move and all that’s going to happen.” Read the rest of Drucker’s piece here.
  • At an event to promote her new book on Wednesday, Arizona Republican Kari Lake, who lost her bid for governor in 2022, suggested she might run for the state’s U.S. Senate seat. “I’m actually eyeing the Senate race. It’s something I’m considering,” said Lake, adding she will make her decision “in the next couple of months.”
  • This video sent out by a super PAC supporting the longshot presidential campaign of Francis Suarez doesn’t feature the Miami mayor but instead an artificial intelligence-generated version of him. This version of Suarez from the uncanny valley is offering those who donate at least $1 to his campaign a chance to win a “free year of college” from the PAC. It’s one way to meet the 40,000-unique-donations threshold to get on the debate stage in August.

Who’s Hot and Who’s Not in the Race for Campaign Cash

For months, the only measurement available to judge the Republican presidential contenders has been polling. At last, we now have a second metric: Fundraising.

And it’s no surprise the second-quarter fundraising hauls for the leading contenders reflect their standing in the polls. Former President Donald Trump is the overwhelming frontrunner for the GOP nomination; he also won the second-quarter money chase. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is running second behind Trump; he raked in more in the three-month period ending June 30 than any other candidate except the former president. Let’s review:

Donald Trump. The former president’s campaign confirms it raised a combined $35 million from donations averaging $34 each. A spokesman declined to reveal how much flowed to the campaign and how much flowed to Save America, a political action committee subject to federal contribution limits. Also unknown is the size of Trump’s war chest. Second-quarter fundraising disclosures are due at the Federal Election Commission on Saturday (July 15), so it won’t be a mystery for long.

Ron DeSantis. For a candidate who entered the race in late May and suffered through one negative news report after another, the Florida governor had a bang-up quarter, raising $20 million in just six weeks. Additionally, DeSantis’ supportive super PAC, Never Back Down, raked in an impressive $150 million. But that figure is padded by the roughly $90 million transferred over from the Florida committee the governor used to finance his successful 2022 reelection bid.

Fundraising matters because without resources, campaigns fold—regardless of potential or where a candidate stands in the latest polls. 

But in this Republican primary, the quest for cash is especially important. That’s because the Republican National Committee is requiring candidates to reach certain donor thresholds to qualify for the first televised debate, on August 23 in Milwaukee. To earn a spot on the stage, the contenders must build a file of at least 40,000 unique donors, including 200 each in at least 20 states and U.S. territories. Some of the underdogs claim to have achieved this milestone. They include:

Chris Christie. The former New Jersey governor had not revealed his second quarter fundraising figures Friday at press time. But Christie said late Wednesday in a Twitter post that he had met “all RNC requirements” to participate in the debate.

Nikki Haley. The former South Carolina governor and former ambassador to the United Nations says she raised $7.3 million in April, May and June, finishing the period with $9.3 million in cash on hand. According to the New York Times, the $7.3 million raised by Haley’s campaign included $5.3 million accumulated directly, and additional $2 million transferred from “two affiliated committees.”

Haley’s allied super PAC, SFA Inc., reports it collected an impressive $18.7 million and entered July with a $17 million war chest. Campaigning in New Hampshire last week, Haley said her campaign has collected 150,000 contributions from grassroots supporters in all 50 states and that she has qualified for the debate.

Tim Scott. The South Carolina senator raised $6.1 million in the nearly three months since he filed a White House exploratory committee (he officially entered the race May 19.) 

Scott’s campaign says it will report more than $21 million in the bank, a healthy sum boosted by a transfer from his successful 2022 reelection bid. Additionally, TIM PAC, the senator’s allied super PAC, says it raised more than $19 million and, combined with money from two other pro-Scott groups, built a cash reserves of $17 million. In a memorandum directed to Scott’s financial backers, his campaign said it has received contributions from 53,000 unique donors and qualified for the debate.

Vivek Ramaswamy. The 37-year-old wealthy biotechnology entrepreneur hasn’t raised much, although with a vast personal fortune underwriting his campaign, he hasn’t necessarily needed to. However, he does have to raise something to meet RNC donor requirements and earn a spot on the debate stage. Ramaswamy’s campaign tells The Dispatch he raised more than $2.3 million from contributions averaging $30.20, emphasizing that he now has a roster of 65,000 unique donors. The candidate will report in-kind contributions to his campaign in the amount of approximately $402,000.

Mike Pence. The former vice president is expected to publicize his second quarter fundraising Friday afternoon. 

Doug Burgum. The North Dakota governor, who has a big personal checkbook from which to finance his campaign, appears to be struggling to meet the RNC donor requirements. His gambit to fix that is to offer a $20 gift card to the first 50,000 people who contribute at least $1 to his presidential bid. It could cost him $1 million, but the former software mogul, who sold his company to Microsoft before entering politics, can apparently afford it. 

Joe Biden. Don’t forget the incumbent Democratic president. On Friday morning, his campaign announced it had raised more than $72 million in the second quarter and finished the period with $77 million in cash on hand. In a press release, the Biden campaign said it received contributions from all 50 states, 97 percent of which clocked in at under $200, adding that “30 percent of our donor universe are new donors since our 2020 campaign.”

Another Iowa Cattle Call

Former Fox News host Tucker Carlson will interview a host of Republican presidential candidates in Des Moines at today’s Family Leadership Summit. The GOP cattle call will have an audience of the state’s conservative evangelical Christian voters exactly six months out from the January 15 Iowa caucuses.

One notable name missing from the event’s featured candidate list—which includes Tim Scott, Mike Pence, Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswamy, and Asa Hutchinson—is Donald Trump.

The former president’s decision to skip the summit, which is sponsored by the social conservative activist group The Family Leader, did not surprise the gathering’s organizers. “I didn’t expect him to come,” says Steve Boender, a board member for The Family Leader who identities as neither “pro-Trump” nor “anti-Trump” and says he hasn’t picked a horse in the primary yet. 

“Obviously Trump’s disappointed that Family Leader didn’t fall in line after everything he did,” Boender tells The Dispatch.

Bob Vander Plaats, the influential Iowa evangelical activist who heads the group, has been even less forgiving. “I think there’s no doubt, most likely, I will not endorse him,” Vander Plaats told the New York Times this week. “So he believes if he shows up and I don’t endorse him that will make him look weak.”

But even more surprising to Iowa Republicans than Trump’s decision to rebuff the Family Leadership Summit was his attack on the state’s popular Republican governor, Kim Reynolds, for cozying up to rival DeSantis.

Dispatch Politics reported back in early June that despite the Iowa governor’s commitment to neutrality, “Reynolds and DeSantis have a special camaraderie that’s hard to miss when they’re together.” Trump has caught wind of that dynamic, the Times reported this week, and has resorted to condemning her publicly and privately for declining to endorse him in the primary.

“I opened up the Governor position for Kim Reynolds, & when she fell behind, I ENDORSED her, did big Rallies, & she won,” Trump posted on his social media website Truth Social on Monday. “Now, she wants to remain ‘NEUTRAL.’ I don’t invite her to events!”

Publicly condemning Reynolds is a bold move even for Trump, who holds a commanding polling lead in the Hawkeye State six months out from the caucuses. 

“I think that’s somebody’s wild imagination that she’s playing favorites in this race,” says Iowa’s RNC Committeeman Steve Scheffler, who also serves as president of the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition. “Knowing her and knowing how they operate, then she’ll go and appear with any candidate anywhere anytime as long as her schedule will permit that.”

And what of Trump’s decision to skip the Family Leadership Summit?

“Overall this group and the people they represent seem to move as a unit,” veteran GOP strategist David Kochel says of Family Leadership Summit attendees. “They take their time, and often decide reasonably late because they want to watch the campaigns make their case.”

Scheffler agrees that Republican presidential candidates should relish every opportunity to meet Republican voters in the Hawkeye State. “Most Iowa caucusgoers want to kick the tires several times” before making a final decision about who they’ll vote for, he says. 

But Scheffler adds that it’s not necessarily a misstep for Trump to skip the summit.

“I don’t even want to begin to second-guess or condemn or dislike them or be negative in any way at all that he’s not coming to a certain event,” Scheffler says. “Like every campaign, they’re trying to calculate what is best for them.”

Notable and Quotable

“I apologize for using my flatulence as a medium of public commentary in your presence.” 

—Doug Dechert, a supporter of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s presidential bid, to the New York Post regarding his behavior at a press dinner to benefit the Democrat, July 12

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