GOP strategists and political analysts were fumbling for adjectives all day to describe Trump's anemic May fundraising total and its impact, after his late-night FEC file reporting $1.3 million cash on hand (or, to put it in New York terms, a little less than the musical Hamilton grosses in ticket sales each week.) Some went with "devastating." Chris Cillizza called it "disastrously bad."
"As top Republicans expressed astonishment and alarm over Donald Trump’s paltry campaign fundraising totals, the presumptive nominee blamed party leaders Tuesday and threatened to rely on his personal fortune instead of helping the GOP seek the cash it needs," reported Matea Gold and Philip Rucker.
"New campaign finance reports showing that Trump had less than $1.3 million in the bank heading into June ignited fears that the party will not be able to afford the kind of national field effort that the entire Republican ticket depends on. The real estate mogul responded by going on the offensive, saying GOP fundraisers have failed to rally around his campaign. 'I’m having more difficulty, frankly, with some of the people in the party,' Trump said on NBC’s 'Today,' adding, 'They don’t want to come on.'"
For some in the GOP, that sentiment is mutual. "Top Republicans said Trump squandered the month of May by neglecting to capitalize on clinching the nomination to build and activate a grass-roots fundraising base.
"There is also growing scrutiny of his heavy use of Trump-owned companies as vendors. Of the $63 million his campaign spent through May, more than $6 million — close to 10 percent — went to pay Trump properties or reimburse Trump and his family for expenses, according to an analysis by The Washington Post. That includes $4.6 million paid to his private jet company, TAG Air, and $423,000 that went just last month to his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla.
"The Trump campaign did not respond to questions about the payments." Not today, anyway.
"If fundraising is, at its root, a test of whether you can get people to vote for you with their checkbooks, Trump failed in May," said Chris Cillizza. "And he failed with every possible advantage working for him: momentum, decent-to-good polling and, at least for part of the month, a Republican Party that seemed willing to unify behind him.
"Trump may not need to raise as much money as Clinton to win. But he can't have another month where he is outraised by her at a nine-to-one clip. If he does, the general election may be over before it ever really started."
But there were already signs of change inside the campaign. Today, during Hillary Clinton's economy speech, his campaign emailed journalists rapid response statements challenging her claims; Trump tweets critiqued her performance as she spoke. You may be wondering why this is worth noting — after all, every major campaign does this every time an opponent makes a big speech. This is true. But until today, the Trump campaign never had. By late afternoon it had sent more press releases in a single day than it had in the previous week.
This afternoon, we found out why: the campaign said that it had made research and rapid response hires, and officially announced the hiring of former Bob Dole adviser Jim Murphy as the new national political director, among other new staffers. It also confirmed that former Dick Cheney aide Kevin Kellems would be the new director of surrogates (and let us be the first to say: Kevin, please don't forget about Ben Carson. We won't.)
By our count, with the new hires, the Trump campaign is likely around 75 staffers strong right now. If, by the end of the month, it has just 150 people on staff nationally, it will have doubled its size. (And matched Clinton's strength on the ground...in the state of Ohio.) That may be about to happen.
WHO SAYS YOU CAN'T FIND A FRIENDLY FACE IN NEW YORK?:
Trump got some relief from money news today, announcing an "evangelical executive advisory" council that included former Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), James Dobson, and Ralph Reed, and winning "a standing ovation from hundreds of Christian conservatives who came to New York City Tuesday with a somewhat skeptical but willing attitude toward a man who has divided their group with comments on women, immigrants and Islam," reported Michelle Boorstein.
"In his comments, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee said he would end the decades-old ban on tax-exempt groups’ — including churches — politicking, called religious liberty 'the No. 1 question,' and promised to appoint antiabortion Supreme Court justices.
"'I think maybe that will be my greatest contribution to Christianity — and other religions, is to allow you, when you talk religious liberty, to go and speak openly, and if you like somebody or want somebody to represent you, you should have the right to do it,' Trump said. A ban was put in place by president Lyndon Johnson on tax-exempt groups making explicit political endorsements. Religious leaders in America today, Trump said, 'are petrified.'
"As president, he said, he’d work on things including: 'freeing up your religion, freeing up your thoughts. You talk about religious liberty and religious freedom, you don’t have any religious freedom if you think about it,' he told the group, which broke in many times with applause.
"Throughout the talk Trump emphasized that America was hurting due to what he described as Christianity’s slide to become 'weaker, weaker, weaker.' He said he’d get department store employees to say 'Merry Christmas' and would fight restrictions on public employees, such as public school coaches, from being allowed to lead sectarian prayer on the field..."
Despite the friendly reception, Trump's evangelical day delivered the awkward. Like this, which was maybe a little bit awkward:
Peak awkward: the post-speech question and answer session.
Today, Hillary Clinton gave a speech intended to define Donald Trump: "Exactly the thing that Trump claims is his main qualification — his business background — is proof of values and practices that should trouble voters, Clinton said. Her speech blended criticism of Trump’s stated positions on the economy with warnings that the mogul is a big talker who has always been out for only himself," reported Anne Gearan.
"'This is his one move,' Clinton said. 'He makes over-the-top promises that if people stick with him, trust him, listen to him, put their faith in him, he’ll deliver for them. He’ll make them wildly successful. And then everything falls apart and people get hurt.' The presumptive Democratic nominee cast the mogul as selfish, callous and glib about how he made money." All his books "seem to end at Chapter 11," she said.
"Today marks 200 days since Clinton has held a formal press conference of any sort. 200!," noted Chris Cillizza
"The last time Clinton held a news conference, not a single vote had been cast in the Democratic primary contest. The idea of Donald Trump as the Republican presidential nominee was still greeted with (mostly) eye rolls and laughs. And the State Department inspector general's office hadn't issued a scathing report on Clinton's decision to exclusively use a private email server to conduct her electronic correspondence while serving as the nation's top diplomat."
"...The goal of this strategy is simple: limit Clinton's exposure in a format in which she is not terribly comfortable.
We realize this entire observation may have some of you reaching for your tiny violin cases. But it's not really about us. Not entirely about us, anyway.
"Clinton's willingness and ability to keep the media at arm's length is part of a disturbing trend pursued by Democrats and Republicans alike in recent years. The rise of Flickr, YouTube channels, Twitter, Facebook and a thousand other technological innovations has made it incredibly easy for candidates to end-run the media — pushing their message undiluted to their supporters.
"What all of that end-running doesn't and can't do is this: convince anyone not already for you of anything...."
—You may have heard that someone tried to assassinate Donald Trump — though you may not know who it was; his identity was the top-trending Trump question on Google earlier today — and some speculation about why. (It's worth noting that as of this moment, Donald Trump hasn't mentioned or tweeted about Michael Steven Sandford, a 20-year-old British man who overstayed his visa.) But "the most obvious explanation is that Sandford doesn't appear to have come particularly close to completing his alleged mission," says Callum Borchers. "He didn't even succeed in arming himself at the Trump rally [where he intended to kill Trump]. Sandford's plot seems to have been feebly unsophisticated; he told authorities the extent of his training was a visit the day before the rally to a gun range, where he fired 20 rounds from a 9mm Glock pistol, a common service weapon, to learn how to use one. ...In short, calling Sandford a legitimate threat might be giving him too much credit."
—(Side note about the Trump fundraising appeal that went out today: no, it technically wasn't his first — he sent one on behalf of the joint fundraising committee nearly two weeks ago.)
—Clinton #veepstakes update: "The Hillary Clinton campaign has begun checking into the positions, backgrounds and financial dealings of at least three potential vice presidential candidates, Democrats familiar with the process said Tuesday: Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Sen. Timothy M. Kaine of Virginia," report Anne Gearan and Dave Weigel.
"Clinton has also begun to winnow a list of more than a dozen potential choices, another senior Democrat said. She is 'beginning the process of narrowing a list of qualified candidates,' that Democrat said, but is still expected to consider numerous candidates.
"Clinton herself has said only that her top priority is choosing someone who could become president in a heartbeat, but close allies have said she is also focused on picking a partner with whom she is personally comfortable and someone able to rally congressional Democrats and energize the party."
—Among the many people now having a better month than Donald Trump: Bernie Sanders. "In his public statements, Sanders has laid out a three-pronged Democratic Party reform plan. Superdelegates should be abolished, primaries should be open to all voters and 'the most progressive platform' in party history should be approved in Philadelphia. Progress has been made on all three fronts.
"Sanders's allies on the drafting platform committee have struggled to get the party to endorse new language on Israel's relationship with the Palestinians. But in conversations with Clinton delegates, there have been reasons for optimism on the rest of the Sanders policy planks -- Medicare for all, for example -- and on the reform of superdelegates...."
—Before Corey Lewandowski exited the Trump campaign, Jenna Johnson asked him about the apocryphal tale Donald Trump has told at rallies about alleged tactics used by U.S. Gen. John J. Pershing when he fought Muslim insurgents in the Philippines in the early 1900s. (In the story, Pershing has 49 men killed with bullets dipped in pig's blood, and sends one back to tell others what he saw. There is no evidence this actually happened.) "[Lewandowski] said that it does not matter that it is not true. 'It’s not about that,' he said. 'Look, it’s an analogy.'" Oh.
Note: Due to a production error, a blurb in yesterday's Trail misstated the relationship between journalists Ben Shapiro and Michelle Fields. They are not involved, they are former colleagues.