President Donald Trump won a historic election in 2016 thanks to his own wallet and support from a record number of small donors.
In 2020, he’ll have an additional advantage as big Republican donors, reluctant to support his campaign initially, come back into the fold to support the incumbent president.
Trump was dubbed the Republican Obama in 2016, as supporters flooded the campaign with donations of under $200. As of September 2016, the then-candidate had already surpassed previous Republican presidential candidates John McCain and Mitt Romney’s entire campaigns in small-donor support.
Federal Election Commission filings revealed Trump received $100 million from small donors less than three months after his first solicitation for donors in June 2016.
However, one area where Trump struggled in 2016 was with the traditional GOP donor machine that backs their preferred candidates with boatloads of cash. These big donors are a deep-seated part of the political establishment, but many were skeptical that the former “Apprentice” host and real estate mogul had any shot at winning the presidency.
Former White House Communications Director and early Trump supporter Anthony Scaramucci described having a hard time bringing his usual deep-pocketed donors out to support candidate Trump.
“We were frustrated because there was a very large group of never Trumpers,” Scaramucci said. “There was a very large group of establishment Republicans, not just political leaders that were in the establishment but what I would call establishment business people, CEOs large and small, entrepreneurs that were classically and traditionally Republican that were really swearing off the Trump campaign.”
According to NPR, Trump managed to bring in just 8,000 large dollar donations that year, compared to Hillary Clinton’s 50,000 and Romney’s 70,000.
But the tide seems to be turning in 2020.
The Trump campaign told The Daily Caller last month that the president’s reelection campaign will be working directly with the very donors who sat out the 2016 race. (RELATED: Trump Campaign Manager Disputes Reports On Polling)
The campaign launched a bundling program — something that didn’t exist last time around — for large donors who can convince their friends to give. Bundlers who can raise $25,000 will be part of the “Trump Train,” bundlers who raise $45,000 get access to “Club 45,” and the exclusive “Builders Club” is for bundlers who bring in $100,000 or more. These special designations will give bundlers access to special dinners, campaign events, and retreats.
Roy Bailey, a Dallas fundraiser, claims that 150 people have already signed on for the new program, including people who previously attacked the president publicly.
“There were still a lot of people who were trying to lick their wounds and hadn’t quite gotten over the fact that he had whipped everybody. They were slow to come on board,” Bailey said.
The big donors are also allegedly impressed by the stellar economy under this president — including record low unemployment rates, 130 consecutive months of job growth, and record stock market gains.
Jack Oliver was just one name the campaign noted when asked about the bundling program.
Oliver has been involved in GOP bundling since the early 2000s and is a close ally of the Bush family. He planned on supporting Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in 2016. Despite the sting from Bush’s relative failure, Oliver is now backing Trump all the way.
“I think you’ll have a significant number of Bush and Romney veterans that were on the sidelines or didn’t get overly involved in 2016 but will be involved in the 2020 campaign,” Oliver said.
Trump also has the support of a major Super PAC, America First Action, which does not have to adhere to the legal limits on donations to a traditional campaign. America First is planning on raising and spending $300 million on the president’s reelection campaign, and is kicking off the cycle with a series of policy events on trade with Vice President Mike Pence.
However, the president’s embrace of a traditional reelection campaign, and thus big donors, doesn’t mean he is abandoning the small donors who propelled him to victory in the last presidential cycle. (RELATED: Report: Trump Campaign Pulls In A Giant Amount Of Cash After Mueller Report Release)
In fact, early reports show that the campaign raised $3.3 million from small donors, while the Make America Great Again joint fundraising committee received $17.4 million. The average donation per person sits at just $34.26.
Overall, Trump is well positioned to continue his financial dominance in 2020, having raise a combined $168 million with the RNC since January 2017.