Donald Trump all but erased his enormous financial disadvantage against Hillary Clinton in the span of just two months, according to figures released by his campaign on Tuesday, converting the passion of his core followers into a flood of small donations on a scale rarely seen in national politics.
Trump and the Republican National Committee raised $64 million through a joint digital and direct mail effort in July, according to his campaign, the bulk of it from small donors. All told, Trump and his party brought in $82 million last month, only slightly behind Clinton, and ended with an enormous pool of $74 million in cash on hand, suggesting he might now have the resources to compete with Clinton in the closing stretch of the campaign.
The figures mark a major achievement in Trump’s campaign, which until recent months was largely funded by a trickle of hat and T-shirt sales and by Trump’s wallet. And they suggest Trump has the potential to be the first Republican nominee whose campaign could be financed chiefly by grass-roots supporters pitching in $10 or $25 apiece, echoing the unprecedented success of Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont during the Democratic presidential primary.
Clinton has “been doing this for 20 years,” said Steven Mnuchin, a New York investor who serves as Trump’s finance chairman. “We’ve been doing it for two months.”
Exact figures — including a precise breakdown of total cash raised in small increments by each candidate — will not be available until Trump and Clinton file their formal monthly reports with the Federal Election Commission this month. And Trump’s surge is coming very late in the campaign, at a point where advertising rates climb and the chance to invest in a long-term digital and campaign infrastructure is long past.
But the campaign’s figures suggest that after months of dithering and false starts, Trump has begun to exploit an opportunity that many Republicans have long viewed as his for the taking: marrying his powerful credibility among grass-roots Republicans with the high-tech tools of large-scale digital fundraising. During July 2012, for example, Mitt Romney and the Republican National Committee reported raising a total of just $19 million from contributions of less than $200.
“There was always that potential, but you didn’t have candidates who were as uniquely positioned in the same way that Trump is,” said Patrick Ruffini, a Republican strategist who ran digital fundraising at the Republican National Committee under President George W. Bush.
© 2016 New York Times News Service