Trump has raised and spent money for his reelection since 2017, earlier in his term than previous presidents. At this point in 2012, the Obama campaign, the Democratic Party and a joint fundraising committee had spent roughly half that amount, at about $552 million, federal records show. Trump’s 2016 campaign, run on a shoestring budget, cost $878 million.
Despite the historic spending, Trump has been slipping in national polls and approval ratings amid the spread of the novel coronavirus and a weakened economy. Biden holds a double-digit lead nationally and Trump faces a narrow path to victory through electoral-college majority in battleground states, according to a Washington Post analysis.
The challenges facing Trump despite his record finances underscore the limitations of campaign spending on winning voters’ confidence, said Michael Malbin, co-founder and director of the Campaign Finance Institute, a division of the National Institute on Money in Politics.
“Nothing compares to the daily impression he’s making, with his handling of the pandemic and with the state of the economy. If those turn around, his support will turn around. If they don’t, no amount of advertising will help,” Malbin said.
Meanwhile, Biden has quickly expanded his big-money fundraising to close the cash gap with Trump. A new agreement made public Monday increased the amount of money that a single donor can give to support Biden, the national party and 37 state parties, at $730,600 per donor.
Biden’s war chest had ballooned by July, but Trump maintained a cash lead. Biden, the Democratic National Committee and two affiliated fundraising committees entered July with $238.5 million, filings show. Trump, the Republican National Committee and two affiliated fundraising committees had $296 million.
The two campaigns spent heavily on advertising in June. The Trump campaign spent at least $41 million on placing and producing ads, filings show. Biden’s campaign spent at least $27 million on digital ads, media buys, media production and direct mail.
Among other key Trump expenses in June was $537,705 to the SMG-BOK Center, the venue for Trump’s controversial campaign rally in Tulsa. Trump’s reelection effort continued to drive revenue to the president’s family business, at $45,123.
Trump and the RNC said the record-level spending has allowed the campaign to build out a staff of more than 1,500 across the country, train staff, and improve the data capabilities of the campaign and the RNC. The RNC is also financing litigation for voting-access issues. On the Democratic side, politically active nonprofits are paying those legal bills.
“The massive resources supporters have provided will allow us to activate the largest grass-roots army ever assembled in American politics, defend the states the president won in 2016, and go on offense in states carried by Hillary Clinton last time,” said Tim Murtaugh, Trump’s campaign spokesman. “We will use the resources to get out the vote for President Trump and define Joe Biden as the hapless dupe of the extreme left he is proving to be.”
At an online fundraiser Monday, Biden touted his mostly online campaign, highlighted 310 million views of campaign video content since stay-at-home restrictions began and criticized Trump’s handling of the pandemic.
“Just ignoring the pandemic won’t make it go away even though he thinks it,” Biden said. “Folks, this has got to be a wake-up call. … This is our moment to reimagine and rebuild a new American economy.”
The pandemic has led both parties to adjust their plans for their nominating conventions next month, and it has shifted their fundraising and spending plans around logistical changes.
The Republican Party is holding a scaled-back convention in Jacksonville, Fla., and the convention host committee has so far raised $11.4 million, a new filing shows. The biggest expense in June was $621,498 in IT and strategic support services to Ceasg Consulting, a firm registered to the committee’s vice president and chief information officer, Max Everett.
The host committee’s spokeswoman, Blair Ellis, said that the firm provides cybersecurity expertise and that the contract was made at the direction of the committee’s chief executive and chief financial officers.
“Given the importance of cybersecurity and maintaining the convention’s infrastructure, the Committee on Arrangements took over payments that would normally be made by the host committee to ensure continuity in our planning,” Ellis said.
Democrats have drastically downsized their convention, and the convention committee has raised about $4.8 million, per a new filing. The committee spent less than $1 million in June, on little other than payroll.
Correction: An earlier version of the story inaccurately described Trump and Biden campaign spending in June. The correct spending figures for June for the two campaign committees are $36.2 million for Biden and $50.3 million for Trump.