WASHINGTON, Aug. 5, 2016 — Money is the milk of presidential campaigns and polls are the cereal. They come together to decide whether a candidate will have the nourishment and stamina to make it across the finish line first.
According to the New York Times, tens of thousands of small donors across the nation are giving GOP nominee Donald Trump the nourishment he needs to make the race with Hillary Clinton close. Trump has nearly eradicated his mountainous fund-raising deficit.
Tuesday the Trump campaign released financial numbers which show that the billionaire candidate teamed up with the Republican National Committee to utilize a joint digital and direct campaign to raise $64 million in July.
When that amount is combined with other efforts, Trump and the party raised $82 million in July compared to Clinton’s $90 million. What has to bring cheers from Trump’s supporters and chagrin to Hillary’s campaign is that the vast majority of the donations came from small donors, ala Bernie Sanders.
Much like Sanders, Trump has discovered that a populist revolutionary movement can be seeded financially from small, committed donors with $10 to $25 donations. This is quite a financial turnaround for Trump, whose meager fundraising efforts in May, when the campaign had less than $2M on hand, were mocked by his liberal detractors and the press.
Sanders proved that an energized base of small donors can translate into an energized base of voters. Now Trump has underlined that point. The number of people who are turning out at his numerous campaign stops in swing steps may signal an increase in his small donor support as well.
In the past two weeks, Trump’s verbal missteps and Clinton’s post-convention bump have hurt Trump in the polls, but we need to question whether the polls reflect his base. The GOP’s growing, committed small donor base may prove to be the financial firewall he needs to withstand the negative press that has pummeled his campaign.
Currently, Real Clear Politics polling has Clinton leading Trump by seven points, 47.3 percent to 40.5 percent. Fox News has Clinton leading by an even larger margin, 49 percent to 39 percent.
Will the slumping poll numbers have an impact on Trump’s ability to raise money from small donors? As those appearing at his rallies probably do not care about what they see as establishment rigged polls, no.
Both Trump’s and Clinton’s support bases are largely locked in: The candidates’ political missteps have little to no impact on the support of the true believers. Trump is even outpacing 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney with small donors.
In July 2012, Romney and the RNC raised only $19 million from contributors who gave $200 or less.
Pundits cannot ignore that Trump has quadrupled that number, and, unlike Clinton, who has spent almost a decade perfecting her campaign money machine, Trump has been at it for only a little over 60 days.
The Trump phenomenon, which turned out millions of new voters in the presidential primaries, may prove the winning difference when it comes to motivating the new silent majority of blue-collar Democrats to vote for him in November.
Money is not only the mother’s milk of any presidential campaign; it is also an excellent motivator in getting voters to follow up their donations with actual votes.
Pollsters and the mainstream media in New York and Washington may not put much value on $15, $20 or $25 donations to Trump. But if one were to combine each donation with Trump’s committed followers, the vote could be a political tsunami that can carry him into the White House.