NEW YORK • United States billionaire Donald Trump has all but erased his enormous fund-raising disadvantage against Democrat rival Hillary Clinton in the span of just two months, according to figures released by his campaign, converting the passion of his core followers into a flood of small donations on a scale rarely seen in national politics.
Mr Trump and the Republican National Committee raised US$64 million (S$86 million) through a joint digital and mail effort last month, the bulk of it from small donations.
All told, Mr Trump and his party brought in US$82 million last month, only slightly behind Mrs Clinton's US$90 million, and ended with US$74 million on hand, suggesting he might now have the resources to compete with Mrs Clinton in the closing stretch of the campaign. "She's been doing this for 20 years," said Mr Steven Mnuchin, Mr Trump's finance chairman. "We've been doing it for two months."
Over two-thirds of the US$64 million had come online, he said.
The new figures released by the Trump campaign on Wednesday indicate a major shift in the campaign, which until recent months was largely funded by hat and T-shirt sales and by Mr Trump's wallet. And they suggest that Mr Trump has the potential to be the first Republican nominee whose campaign could be financed chiefly by grassroots supporters pitching in US$10 or US$25 apiece.
Moreover, Mr 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.
Mrs Clinton's own fund-raising operation is rapidly expanding as well. In a Twitter post on Wednesday, a spokesman said her campaign and a joint fund-raising effort with the Democratic National Committee had US$102 million on hand, not including cash held by the party.
But Mr Trump's announcement suggests that after months of dithering and false starts, he has begun to exploit an opportunity: marrying his powerful credibility among grassroots Republicans with targeted small-donor fund-raising, particularly online, where Mr Trump's website features buttons soliciting $50, $25 and even $10 contributions.
But Mr Trump's surge also emphasises the complication for Republicans in having him at the head of their party. He is relying more on small-donor fund-raising in part because he has faced opposition from some of the party's biggest patrons, such as California business executive Meg Whitman, who said on Monday she would vote for Mrs Clinton.
Even as ties fray between Mr Trump and some Republicans, he may have the upper hand. Republican strategist Patrick Ruffini said: "Under normal circumstances, the party... could cut off fund-raising to a candidate who misbehaves... that leverage has been taken... away."
NEW YORK TIMES