But here’s the upshot of this in the real world: Trump is largely dominating the field when it comes to spending right now. And an opportunity may be passing by to deliver Trump some debilitating blows at a moment of uncommon vulnerability, as new revelations tumble out daily and impeachment gains public support.
One Democrat is loudly sounding the alarm about this.
In an interview, Ken Martin — the president of the Association of State Democratic Committees — told me that many Democrats in the battleground states and operatives involved with state parties are worried about this imbalance in spending.
“The vast majority of resources being raised is not being spent against Donald Trump right now,” Martin, who is also the chair of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party of Minnesota, a Democratic-leaning state that Trump is heavily contesting, told me. “Who’s taking Trump on?”
With Trump preparing to spend $10 million on ads right now designed to muddy the waters in the impeachment fight, much of it expected to go toward blasting Biden, the Daily Beast recently compared the sum totals of both sides’ spending and concluded that Democrats are getting “torched by Trump in the impeachment ad wars.”
There is some ad spending coming from groups such as Tom Steyer’s Need to Impeach, the Daily Beast reported, but groups like Priorities USA — the hulk of Democratic super PACs — don’t want to expend huge resources responding directly to Trump’s latest broadsides, to preserve resources for later, which they hope to focus on Trump’s failures on kitchen-table issues.
Exacerbating this situation is Trump’s willingness to traffic in rank disinformation and propaganda. For instance, Trump’s ad attacking Biden claims Biden tried to remove a prosecutor targeting his son (a lie) and insisting that Democrats want to impeach him merely because he opposed “corruption” in Ukraine (also a lie).
This is creating a massive disinformation asymmetry. “There’s no one really pushing back on that in any way through paid communications right now,” Martin told me. “And that’s a real challenge.”
Martin candidly noted that the result of this is that the Trump campaign is making a “huge investment” in having an “on-the-ground conversation” with general-election voters, which “the Democratic ecosystem writ large just isn’t doing right now.”
Martin added that in his conversations with numerous state party chairs, including in battleground states, he picked up worry about feeling “overwhelmed” by Trump and GOP spending.
“We should be taking Trump on at every step of the way,” Martin said. “While he’s vulnerable, this is an opportunity for us to really start defining him.”
Martin stressed that he’s not blaming any particular institution in the party for this state of affairs, noting that the leading Democratic presidential candidates, who are raising massive sums, are sucking up a great deal of resources right now. Instead, he faulted the “ecosystem” of Democratic Party politics.
"The bulk of our resources are tied up in this nominating process,” Martin said. He And he noted that the Democratic National Committee has done good work in helping to fortify the infrastructure of state parties in preparation for the general election.
"Democrats are working every day to define and localize the impacts of Trump’s broken promises, and the DNC is making historic investments now across the battlegrounds to ensure our eventual nominee has the infrastructure they need to defeat Trump in 2020,” said David Bergstein, the DNC’s director of battleground state communications.
It may be that the current imbalance is the result of a confluence of unusual factors: Trump’s massive fundraising (his campaign has already hauled in $100 million); the large Democratic field and the success of its leading candidates in raising money, inhaling a lot of resources; and Trump’s willingness to flood the media zone with a level of disinformation propaganda that will dwarf what we saw in 2016.
Martin put it bluntly: “Right now he has unfettered ability to get his message out."