Online donations from grassroots Republicans plummeted in the second quarter as skyrocketing inflation and former President Donald Trump’s aggressive digital fundraising crowded out money for GOP candidates and organizations.
Conservative online fundraising platform WinRed processed fewer donations ($155.8 million) in April, May and June compared to the previous quarter ($169.8 million). The pressure was felt across the board — Republican candidates and groups both suffered. Party strategists who monitor digital donations say historic increases in food costs and gas pump sticker shock, as well as campaign money sucked up by Trump’s Save America political action committee, were the main culprits.
“As the economy eats up spending power, something has to fall by the wayside,” said Zac Moffatt, CEO of Targeted Victory, a Republican consulting firm specializing in digital fundraising and strategy. Targeted Victory maintains a home database of online donors. The company discovered through regular surveys that these grassroots Republicans have reduced their discretionary budgets for political donations in response to inflation, which accelerated to 9.1% in June.
“We’re doing this massive survey of 3,000 people on our donor file,” Moffatt explained. “The wording [responses have been:] It’s gasoline or this donation; it’s vacationing with our kids or this donation.” Republican insiders interviewed for this story were more cautious when discussing the Trump factor in the second-quarter fundraising downturn experienced by so many GOP candidates and groups discussed fearing reprisals from the former President. Anonymity granted, they unloaded.
Republicans are critical of Trump’s fundraising tactics and the money he has raised and spent on Republican candidates and groups. Save America, Trump’s PAC, sends out dozens of email appeals a day and has raked in $103.7 million that cycle. If the former president shared the wealth, Republicans might be less upset. But Trump appears to be hoarding cash, $103.1 million through June 30, for a presidential bid in 2024.
OHIO REPUBLICANS WANT MORE ACTION, JD VANCE EFFORTS IN KEY FALL SENATE SENATE RACE
That doesn’t sit well with Republicans, who are focused on 2022 and an opportunity to regain control of the House and Senate. They expect to compete with the GOP White House hopefuls in presidential election cycles, not years when midterm elections are the main event. Democrats and their party’s congressional campaign committees certainly don’t face similar obstacles when it comes to raising money online. Even with a developing red election wave, the Democrats are practically better than the Republicans.
“Trump has never had the best interests of the Republican Party in mind,” said a frustrated Republican strategist. “He has his own interests — and that’s it.” (Trump’s online fundraising at the grassroots also declined in the second quarter and was lower overall than in January, February and March.)
Meanwhile, Republicans’ digital fundraising could face a new hurdle as Trump announces a 2024 presidential nomination ahead of the Nov. 8 midterm elections.
Trump is the Republican Party’s top digital pitchman. Candidates and the campaign armies of the GOP’s House and Senate, the National Republican Congressional Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee, are using the 45th President’s image and likeness to raise funds, as he is the party’s most attractive personality to grassroots conservatives remains. But if Trump becomes a declared candidate, legal obstacles could arise that would prevent the NRCC and NRSC from featuring him so prominently in email fundraisers.
A Republican electoral law expert said that as an “incumbent, it’s easier to craft messages” that essentially “stand up for Trump” and promoted him, as was the case in the 2018 midterm election and 2020 presidential race. The NRCC and NRSC can still “mention his name” in digital donation letters if Trump becomes a 2024 candidate, the GOP voting rights expert added, “but it’s much more difficult.”
Individual Republicans and some GOP groups enjoyed fundraising worthy of boasting in the second quarter.
But by and large, the decline in digital fundraising that plagued Republicans at this crucial time meant Democrats went into July with more funds to spend on the fall campaign. For example, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee reported a $121.5 million war chest. The NRCC? $108.9 million. The Democratic Senators’ Campaign Committee reported a war chest of $53.5 million. The NRSC? $28.5 million.
That discrepancy has impacted candidates in some key congressional elections, leading some Republicans to worry that the party won’t realize its full potential for House and Senate wins this November.
Republicans emphasize that the party as a whole continues to expand its base of online basic donors. WinRed processed $325.6 million in donations for Republican candidates and groups in the first six months of this year, a 28% increase over the same period in 2021, despite the decline in donations made through the platform from the first to the second quarter.
CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER
Republican digital strategists say that despite a looming mid-election disaster, Democrats will be awash with online funds because they nurtured the base for several years before the GOP — and because they have a larger pool of donors from which to draw several millions more be able . And amid whining that inflation and Trump are hurting digital fundraising, some Republicans say the party began recovering from the problem in mid-July.
“It’s not a problem anymore,” said a GOP strategist who advises congressional candidates in 2022.