In 2016, Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign was better organized, deployed a superior ground game, and her spending doubled Donald Trump’s. But, among other personal deficiencies, Hillary lacked an appealing message.
Candidate Trump’s own party didn’t anticipate his nomination. On a comparative budget, and despite Hillary’s advantages, Mr. Trump’s America First message and clearly-expressed concerns for working and middle class Americans prevailed.
Having learned, the GOP has been working to close the money and organization gaps. Unsurprisingly, Democrats have noticed.
A.B. Stoddard reported at Real Clear Politics: “For months Democrats have worried about a potentially lethal combination of Trump’s incumbency advantage coupled with the unparalleled strength of the GOP organization – and that was before their newfound fear that they may not end up with a suitable nominee to take on even a deeply embattled Trump. … [T]he Trump campaign is carpet-bombing Facebook with ads and the RNC [Republican National Committee] is spreading a volunteer army across key swing states, …while breaking fundraising records allowing them to deploy critical resources nearly a year before a Democrat is nominated.”
The timing is important. In 2012, unable to legally spend General Election funds until after his formal nomination, Mitt Romney’s resources went dormant for months. Romney may have lost the General Election in the summer of 2012, during which he was mercilessly smeared and unable to effectively respond. Barack Obama’s advantages of incumbency worked against Romney. The situation may be reversed in 2020, especially if a brokered convention chooses the Democratic nominee. But, either way, advantage Trump.
More Stoddard: “In August, Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairman Tom Perez acknowledged the threat after the RNC tripled the amount the DNC raised in July. In an email he sent supporters sounding the alarm, he wrote that ‘our eventual nominee won’t stand a chance against Trump and the GOP’s fundraising machine unless we start making strategic, early investments right now.’”
In September, the debt-free RNC raised $27.3 million, the DNC $6.9 million, so Democrats collected one-fourth the money to “invest” – less, actually, because the DNC was $7.2 million in debt. In ten months, the RNC has raised $168.7, while the DNC raised only $66.5 million.
In 2019’s third quarter alone, the RNC and Trump-related online campaign organizations raised $45 million from small donors, 313,000 of whom were first-time contributors.
It’s not just the money. Republican organization has improved as well. By election day, 2020, Republicans anticipate having two million volunteers coordinated by 60,000 trained grassroots volunteers. In 2016, Republicans won the presidency with only 5,000 trained volunteers.
Democrats can claim partial credit for the GOP’s gains: Their party has lurched hard-left; twenty-plus lackluster Democrats are/were running; and impeachment, the Democrats’ Great White Whale, has massively boosted GOP fundraising and grassroots organizing. Since impeachment “officially” began, the RNC and Trump campaign have harvested millions, spent $10.3 million on on-air and online ads, and held 60 events in swing or Trump-won, Democrat-held House and Senate districts/states.
Buckle up. In 2020, the president and Republicans will be well-prepared, formidable competitors.