Trump erodes Biden’s fundraising lead for 2024 election after conviction

Former President Donald J. Trump outperformed President Biden for the second straight month in May, outpacing his successor by about $81 million in donations over the past two months as he enjoyed financial support after his felony conviction.

In May, Mr. Biden’s campaign and its joint operation with the Democratic National Committee raised $85 million, compared to $141 million for Mr. Trump and the Republican National Committee, according to both campaigns. In April, Team Trump also brought in $25 million more than Team Biden.

The Biden campaign said it entered June with $212 million on hand, combined with the party. The Trump operation and the RNC have not released a full accounting of their cash holdings since late March. A partial tally on Thursday, revealed in Federal Election Commission filings, showed that Mr. Trump had amassed a war chest of at least $170 million with the party.

Overall, Mr. Trump was a whopping $100 million behind Mr. Biden as of early April. In two months, he reduced that cash flow deficit by at least half.

The full accounting of both parties’ finances will be made public in federal filings next month. But the combination of Mr. Trump’s improved fundraising and Mr. Biden’s heaviest ad spending this spring appears to put both parties on track to enter the summer relatively close to financial parity .

“Yes, Trump represents a lot more money now, and that should scare people,” said Brian Derrick, a fundraising strategist who founded a Democratic fundraising platform called Oath. “But at the end of the day, Biden has the funds he needs to run a really strong campaign.”

Mr. Trump narrowed the gap by generating a deluge of online donations following his criminal conviction in New York on May 30. In the minutes following the verdict, guilty on 34 counts, contributions came in so quickly that they briefly overwhelmed the Republican Party’s online activity. donation portal, WinRed.

The Trump campaign said it raised $53 million online in the first 24 hours and $70 million in the 48 hours after the verdict. The conviction also sparked a wave of mega-donations, including a $50 million contribution from reclusive billionaire Timothy Mellon to a pro-Trump super PAC the day after the verdict.

Coming off the Republican primary race, the Biden campaign and its allies had argued that for all the president’s electoral vulnerabilities — stubborn inflation, low approval ratings, lingering concerns about his age — a clear advantage would be ‘money.

Although that advantage has since evaporated, the Biden campaign says it used its initial financial lead to build political infrastructure in battleground states that will pay dividends in November. On Thursday, the campaign announced it had hired its 1,000th staffer across 200 offices in those states.

“What’s in his FEC report doesn’t translate into troops on the ground tomorrow,” Dan Kanninen, Mr. Biden’s battleground states director, said in an interview. “This has been building over time and Donald Trump cannot come back.”

Money alone is rarely decisive in major elections, such as for the presidency, because voters are already well informed about the candidates. But some of the most important voters this year appear to be those who have opted out – and accessing them can cost a significant amount of money.

For months, Mr. Trump and his allies simply did not have the money to reach these voters. Even though his path to the Republican nomination was hardly strewn with pitfalls, he emerged from the primary race in a relatively poor financial situation compared to that of Mr. Biden’s operation, which caused him to lose money for almost a year.

Mr. Biden had consolidated his party’s biggest donors. Mr. Trump had not done this on his side.

But this slow start has also given Mr. Trump much more room to grow. In the weeks since he dispatched Nikki Haley, his latest Republican rival, Trump supporters have described an almost stealth effort to win back his good graces.

A fundraising dinner at Mr. Trump’s Florida property, Mar-a-Lago, in mid-February, weeks before Ms. Haley’s departure served as a significant inflection point as fundraising Trump’s fundraisers signaled to hesitant donors that the days of indecision were coming to an end. A fundraising dinner hosted by hedge fund billionaire John Paulson raised $50 million, according to the campaign. And last month, well-off resisters like Blackstone co-founder Stephen A. Schwarzman signaled that they planned to support Mr. Atout.

Finalizing the nomination also allowed Mr. Trump to form a joint fundraising committee with the national and state Republican parties, a seemingly technical step that meant he could suddenly raise hundreds of thousands of dollars more from each donor. Mr. Biden had been fundraising on these larger increases for many months.

Online contributions will be increasingly crucial in the future because campaigns cannot tap their biggest donors for repeat contributions. And Mr. Trump’s base appears to have been very driven by his belief. His campaign said a quarter of contributors in May were new.

The question for Mr. Trump is how many of these people become regular contributors. The Biden campaign has actively cultivated recurring online contributors, a group that accounted for $5.5 million in April and more in May, although the campaign did not provide a specific figure.

So far, Mr. Biden has enjoyed a huge publicity advantage over Mr. Trump.

Since the start of the year through this month, Mr. Biden’s operation had released or booked about $35.4 million in the six key battleground states. Mr. Trump’s operation had aired virtually nothing in those states, about $60,000 worth of ads, according to records from AdImpact, a media tracking company.

Trump advisers say Mr. Biden spent tens of millions of dollars in key states without changing the trajectory of the race, boding ill for the president’s chances in November.

Fundraisers for Mr. Biden insist they will retain the upper hand when outside groups are considered. The constellation of pro-Biden super PACs and nonprofit groups spent about 50% more than Trump’s allies in the six most contested battlegrounds, according to AdImpact data.

Still, Biden’s dominance of the airwaves is unlikely to continue.

Mr. Trump’s main super PAC, Make America Great Again Inc., and its nonprofit arm, which can keep its donors secret, paid nearly $17 million in the first half for ads in Pennsylvania, the only battlefield where he made a significant investment.

But this week, MAGA Inc. began booking nearly $30 million in air time starting in early July in Pennsylvania and Georgia, part of what it says will be a 100-year summer ad blitz millions of dollars. Other pro-Trump super PACs are also beginning to plan ad campaigns.

Democratic fundraisers for Mr. Biden said they expected Mr. Trump to eventually catch up and received such advice explicitly from Rufus Gifford, the top fundraising official. campaign funds, during recent briefings. A Biden official compared the 2024 race to the summer of 2012, when Mitt Romney gradually narrowed President Barack Obama’s fundraising lead.

Other Democratic allies have been more disconcerted by the recent turn of events, speculating about Mr. Trump’s lasting political impact. Trump’s belief will rest not with voters but with donors.

“It’s distressing to see the race for money stabilize,” said Jon Reinish, a Democratic political strategist. “This was supposed to be one of Biden’s real advantages. He’s also been spending money for months and it doesn’t seem to be moving the needle much in terms of polling. Hopefully that changes as we get even closer.

For now, Mr. Biden is racing to rebuild his June covers. He hosted a $30 million event in Los Angeles with Mr. Obama and Hollywood stars, as well as an $8 million fundraiser Tuesday at the home of Terry McAuliffe, the former governor of Virginia, in the presence of former President Bill Clinton.

Others hope Biden surrogates can help raise money.

On the day of the first general election debate next week, three top Democratic governors — Andy Beshear of Kentucky, JB Pritzker of Illinois and Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan — will be in Los Angeles for a fundraiser.

At the same time, a wide range of Republican vice presidential candidates will headline a debate watch party in Atlanta that will also serve as a fundraiser.

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