Trump starts campaign with huge fund-raising haul, raising US$24 million in less than a day

US President Donald Trump began fund raising for his re-election as soon as he took office, though he officially launched the campaign on Tuesday. PHOTO: NYTIMES

WASHINGTON (WASHINGTON POST) - US President Donald Trump raised US$24.8 million (S$33.7 million) in less than 24 hours as he officially launched his re-election, GOP officials said on Wednesday (June 19), underscoring the huge fund-raising lead the President has over a divided and crowded Democratic primary field.

The Wednesday announcement by Republican National Committee Chairman Ronna McDaniel, confirmed by campaign officials, indicates that Mr Trump is on track to report his best fund-raising quarter since he became president.

The one-day haul as Mr Trump held a kick-off rally in Orlando, Florida, included US$14 million for Mr Trump's re-election committee and US$10 million that went to Trump Victory, a joint fund-raising committee between his campaign and the RNC that can accept large donations.

Separately, the President appeared at a high-dollar fund-raising luncheon at the Trump National Doral hotel in Florida on Wednesday, which officials said raised an additional US$6 million.

That would give him more than US$30 million in a two-day period - nearly as much as the US$39 million he raised in the first three months of this year. The flood of cash is helping his campaign quickly expand its staff and finance an early barrage of online ads.

The President's fund-raising bonanza this week far eclipsed the US$6.3 million that former vice-president Joe Biden's campaign said it pulled in on the day of his late April campaign announcement - the largest 24-hour amount raised by any of the Democratic campaigns this year.

In 2016, Senator Bernie Sanders brought in US$6.5 million in the 24 hours after the New Hampshire polls closed, at the time a single-day record for his bid that helped make him financially competitive with Mrs Hillary Clinton. For his 2020 bid, Mr Sanders raised US$5.9 million on the day of his launch.

"This is going to put fuel in the President's engine to go through November 2020," said Mr Roy Bailey, a GOP donor and national finance co-chairman for Mr Trump's re-election. "Whatever the Democrats are raising, they're going to eat up and burn all that fuel in the primary fight."

Mr Trump's re-election operation is financially dominating the Democratic field of two dozen primary candidates, each trying to break out from the pack and gain fund-raising momentum. Some Democratic candidates pointed to Mr Trump's totals in an effort to persuade supporters to give more.

"Donald Trump launched his 2020 campaign last night and he's already raised a frightening amount of money," read a fund-raising solicitation from the campaign of former congressman Beto O'Rourke of Texas.

Ms Julianna Smoot, a Democratic fund raiser who led Mr Barack Obama's campaign finance team in 2008 and was deputy campaign manager in 2012, called Mr Trump's haul "impressive" but said Democratic fund raising will ignite once a nominee is chosen.

"The issue is going to be, frankly, how we narrow that down sooner rather than later, because as you can see, Trump is raising so much money," she said. "We just can't be outspent up until next year when the nominee is determined."

Unlike his predecessors, Mr Trump began fund raising for his re-election as soon as he became president, drawing on the loyal base of small donors he built in the 2016.

And he has another big edge: As an incumbent president, Mr Trump benefits from big-money contributions that flow through the Trump Victory committee to the national party, which is already working for his re-election.

While donors are capped at US$5,600 per cycle to a candidate, they can contribute as much as US$710,000 to national parties in the two-year period.

"They basically have Trump Victory way before the Democrats have a candidate. That's a huge advantage," said Mr Ron Weiser, a GOP donor and Trump fund raiser.

Mr Trump has raised more money than any previous president at this point. So far, the biggest quarterly total reported by the Trump campaign and its affiliated committees was US$39 million in the first quarter of this year.

Campaign officials have said they have a goal of spending at least US$1 billion in the 2020 cycle.

The re-election campaign, working in concert with the RNC, has used its resources to hire dozens of communications officials, political advisers and consultants, who work from three offices in New York, Virginia and Washington DC.

It has 80 paid consultants and full-time staff members, a number that campaign officials said would be growing soon.

The re-election operation has collected data from hundreds of thousands of potential voters, according to several campaign officials familiar with the data effort. The campaign is seeking to amass two million volunteers by Election Day, campaign officials have said.

And because of the abundance of cash, the campaign is eyeing states such as New Hampshire, New Mexico and Nevada as possible pickups in 2020, campaign officials said. Democrats have won and increased their power in all three since 2016.

"He's in a better position today than when he won in 2016," said Mr Brian Walsh, president of America First Action, a pro-Trump super PAC that is also raising money to fund opposition research against Mr Trump's potential opponents.

"He's got a very sound and mature, modern political operation behind him."

Even though he has been actively fund raising for his re-election since last year, Mr Trump used his rally on Tuesday as an official kick-off. Throughout the day, the campaign and affiliated fund-raising committees peppered supporters with text and e-mail messages urging them to donate online towards his first-day total.

"They underestimated me, but more importantly, they underestimated you. Your support has been the fuel to our success," one e-mail solicitation on Tuesday read. "Tonight I'm officially launching my Second Term Presidential Run and I want you to be on my side."

Mr Trump's in-person fund-raising schedule has also picked up this year, with stops in the District, California, Texas and Florida. During a donor retreat in Palm Beach, Florida, in March, Mr Trump's re-election effort was slated to bring in at least US$7 million over the course of a weekend, a Republican Party official said.

Mr Trump has complained to some advisers about doing so many fund raisers, but he has kept pace - including with several events at properties he owns.

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