Why Are Republicans Trouncing Democrats in Fundraising?

Byron York
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Posted: Jul 26, 2017 12:01 AM
Why Are Republicans Trouncing Democrats in Fundraising?

The Republican president has a job approval rating around 40 percent. The GOP has an unfavorability rating around 56 percent. And Republicans trail Democrats by nine points in an average of "generic ballot" polls.

All of which makes it notable that the Republican National Committee is trouncing the Democratic National Committee when it comes to raising money, especially from small donors.

The numbers are striking. In June, the RNC raised $13.5 million to the DNC's $5.5 million.

For 2017 so far, the RNC has raised $75.4 million to the DNC's $38.2 million.

The RNC started the year with $25.3 million in cash-on-hand. Now it has $44.7 million. The DNC started the year with $10.5 in cash-on-hand. Now, that has fallen to $7.5 million.

As of June 30, the RNC reported $0 in debt. The DNC reported $3.3 million in debt.

A look inside the numbers is even worse for the DNC. Looking at collections from small donors -- that is, those who contributed less than $200 -- the RNC raised $10.5 million in the months of May and June. The DNC raised $5.3 million from small donors in the same time period.

The RNC's money total is a record -- more than was raised in any previous non-presidential election year. That is true for June, and for all of 2017 as well. The $75.4 million raised this year compares to $55.4 million for the same period in 2015; to $51.2 for the same period in 2014; to $41.1 million for the same period in 2013, and so on going back.

"It's definitely a reflection of support for President Trump," said RNC spokesman Ryan Mahoney. "Our small-dollar donors are giving at a record pace because they believe the RNC is supporting President Trump, and they like that."

The obvious reason for the Democrats' troubles is that they lost the White House, the House and the Senate last year. Now, the party appears to have a particularly bad hangover. One data point: In 2013, after Republicans lost their second presidential election in a row and many believed the party faced years in the electoral wilderness, the RNC still raised more money in the January-June period, $41.1 million, than the $38.2 million the Democrats have raised so far this year.

There is much discussion about the intensity of Democratic opposition to President Trump, and indeed Democrats showed a lot of fundraising enthusiasm in the losing Georgia 06 congressional race that turned into a referendum on the president. But the fact is, the passions behind The Resistance have not, or have not yet, turned into support for the main vehicle of opposition to Trump, the Democratic Party.

Democrats have simply not gotten over the Hillary-Bernie split that plagued the party last year. And they have not decided what they will be in the future. Remember, this is a party that won the White House in 2008 and 2012 on the strength of the Obama coalition of minorities, young people, and the college educated -- the group political journalist Ron Brownstein calls the "coalition of the ascendant." It's not an exaggeration to say that many believed demographics favored them so heavily that they were virtually guaranteed Democratic victories in the years ahead. And then the Trump victory reminded them that there are still a lot of working-class voters in the country who aren't necessarily natural Democrats.

This week, Democrats led by Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi rolled out a new agenda, which they call "A Better Deal," which is designed to appeal to those disaffected voters. And not a minute too soon. When a recent ABC-Washington Post poll asked, "Do you think the Democratic Party currently stands for something, or just stands against Trump?" -- just 37 percent said the party stands for something, while 52 percent said it just stands against Trump, and 11 percent had no opinion.

So now Democrats have a huge job in front of them. And it is unclear whether Tom Perez, the Hillary Clinton-backed candidate who won the DNC chairmanship in a divisive battle with Rep. Keith Ellison earlier this year, is the man to do it. Last month, in explaining another dismal fundraising period for the Democrats, Perez distanced himself from the problem. "I got here on March 1," Perez told MSNBC, "and I was the first to say it, we've got a lot of rebuilding to do."

The new fundraising numbers don't predict what will happen in 2018. But they do say what is happening now. And that is, in spite of his problems there is enough support for Trump in the Republican base to set new small-donor fundraising records, while Democrats have yet another measure of the work that lies ahead.