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Issues & Insights

Trump Is Using Obama’s Money Model To Win

I&I Editorial

If you’re a Democrat, is there anything more horrifying than hearing Barack Obama’s campaign manager for his 2012 successful reelection warn that “the nominee (of the Democratic Party for 2020) will be broke, as Romney was against us”?

That is exactly what Jim Messina told the Washington Post this week – even as the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump raged. Speaking of how much money Trump has been raising and utilizing, Messina added, “I have never seen spending like it. And it’s a lot on rallies, which are expensive and speak to the base.”

In total, the paper tracked down “at least 220 big donors to Trump’s reelection who are either new to major political giving or sat out the last presidential general election.” These novice contributors “have deluged pro-Trump fundraising committees with more than $21 million.”

And this is before the effects of the impeachment trial itself are felt, which may fuel the belief among Trump’s supporters, and Republican donors in general, that Democrats are misusing the Constitution and committing character assassination against not only the president but GOP senators – the jurors they are supposedly trying to convince. Rep Jerrold Nadler of New York has already repeatedly used the word “lie” in reference to Trump’s legal team, and by extension his Republican Senate supporters, earning a scolding from Chief Justice John Roberts.

Trump and Obama may have a lot more in common than we realize, as Messina suggests. In a sense, these two presidents who sought reelection are mirror images – ideological opposites, yes, but like two sides of the same coin. As the Post analysis put it, “Democratic strategists said Trump’s ability to raise and spend massive sums from big donors to Trump Victory, a joint fundraising committee that is drawing these new contributors [a number of whom the Post interviewed], was similar to the money advantage that Obama had in his reelection battle against Romney.”

Both Trump and Obama became symbols, in the minds of the rank and file of the opposing party, of their enemy’s political philosophy. Both were and are considered to be politicians who broke the conventional mold, and possessed unique abilities to electrify voters who were uninvolved before Obama or Trump came on the scene.

Not The MAGA Caricature

Who are these new Trump donors? Beer-bellied, shotgun-toting white guys sporting bright-red MAGA hats who can be spotted at 100 yards? Think again. “Xinyue ‘Daniel’ Lou, who gave his first major donation of more than $37,000 to Trump Victory in 2017, said he felt valued when party officials described him as an ‘investor’ in the Republican Party,” the Post reported. “And so, he said, he urged other well-to-do people in the Chinese-American community to give to Trump. Many, he said, had never been tapped by a political party before and were intrigued by Trump’s presidency.”

The Post also told of “Ejike Okpa, a Nigerian-American commercial real estate developer in Dallas who started a PAC called Africans for MAGA” and “gave his first major political donations to Trump’s reelection: $35,000 in 2017 and $10,000 in 2018. He has always preferred non-traditional candidates, he said — he gave $250 to Obama in 2008 — and he likes that Trump is a fighter and disrupter in Washington.” Okpa told the Post, “What he stands for, the way he has approached doing things for America, just kind of intrigues me.”

Texas fracking tycoons Dan and Farris Wilks were cool on Trump in 2016. “But so far, they have given a combined $100,000 toward the president’s reelection,” the Post reported. “There are very few ‘Never Trumpers’ [who keep refraining from supporting Trump], and there are very few donors who are disengaged,” veteran GOP fundraiser Lisa Spies told the Post, adding that Trump “has a whole new crop of donors. A lot of these people have never been involved before.”

Why? According to the Washington Post, a left-leaning fixture in the nation’s capital,” they were moved to give by the president’s tax cuts, his deregulation agenda and their confidence in the economy. They expressed trust in Trump’s decision-making and shared his indignation over Democratic attacks.”

Moreover, these same generous, enthused new contributors give tremendously despite disliking much of Trump’s rhetoric – because they “find him authentic and relatable.”

Raul Esqueda, head of an Austin, Texas, credit firm who gave $35,000 for Trump’s reelection, told the Post he excuses the president because “he’s not a polished politician.” Esqueda “says business is booming under Trump” and “does not feel tied to a party,” according to the Post.

There may be a flip side to this, however. National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Emmer recently sounded a warning to Republicans, because his committee’s Democrat counterpart, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, had raised $40 million more than the NRCC’s $85 million in 2019. Emmer said, “our members need to get their act together and raise more money … individual campaigns need to raise more money. They cannot expect somebody else is gonna do it for them.”

That somebody else, of course, is Trump. But between combating impeachment, killing Iranian terrorist masterminds, forging global trade deals, and setting new records for tweeting, the nation’s chief executive may be too busy to win Republican senators’ and congressmen’s races for them.

Since all the indications are, however, that the conservative principles of low taxes, reduced regulations, judicial restraint, and a steely but sober American role in the world are behind the president’s fundraising success, they really shouldn’t need him – if they believe in the same things themselves.

— Written by Thomas McArdle


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I & I Editorial Board

The Issues and Insights Editorial Board has decades of experience in journalism, commentary and public policy.

2 comments

  • What do you guys think of Bloomberg’s promise to provide his staff and funding to whoever wins the Democratic nomination? That would be sufficient to upend the fundraising picture entirely.

    But would he deliver on that promise if Sanders won the nomination? I would think not.

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Issues & Insights is a new site formed by the seasoned journalists behind the legendary IBD Editorials page. Our goal is to bring our decades of combined journalism experience to help readers understand the top issues of the day. We’re doing this on a voluntary basis, because we believe the nation needs the kind of cogent, rational, data-driven, fact-based commentary that we can provide. 

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