Donald Trump: What Did He Do?
About a week ago, former President Donald Trump declared that he was about to be indicted by a grand jury in Manhattan, on charges brought by District Attorney Alvin Bragg. Trump has since gone on a scorched-earth campaign against Bragg, which has included everything from denouncing the prosecutor as a “Soros-backed animal” to resurrecting extremely thin reports of misconduct accusations against the Manhattan prosecutor.
No such indictment has yet been handed down, and one won’t be, at least not until next week. Therefore, there has been much speculation that Trump’s premature declaration of the impending indictment was more of a fundraising appeal than anything else. The Guardian, for instance, interpreted it as Trump has taken the opportunity to “pass [the] begging bowl” for his 2024 campaign.
That newspaper cited fundraising emails from the Trump campaign, including such language — “globalist power brokers”, the “deep state” and “witch hunt-crazed radicals”— that make Trump’s Truth Social missives look somewhat tame by comparison.
Meanwhile, there are indications now that the fundraising totals that followed the indictment prediction have been underwhelming- which raises questions about Trump’s historically prodigious success with raising money as he ramps up his third presidential campaign.
According to a report by Puck, Trump raised $1.5 million “off his looming indictment,” which by most standards is a great deal of money. But that fundraising total “appears to be causing some agitation” within Trump’s team. Because that number pales in comparison with other “scandal-adjacent fundraising blitzes.” Trump, in fact, raised over $2 million in a matter of days following the Mar-a-Lago raid last August, and over $11 million in the days after the release of the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape late in the 2016 campaign.
Trump may very well be the first politician in history who has had enough “scandal-adjacent fundraising blitzes” that one can compare them to one another. And it indicates that perhaps either the Trump team’s fundraising skills have slipped, or that there is fatigue among his supporters.
“Simply put, indictment or no indictment, the grassroots supporters simply aren’t opening their checkbook the way they used to,” the Puck report said. The piece added that while the “small-dollar fundraising drought” that has affected Republicans hasn’t been applying to Trump, perhaps now it is.
The Ron DeSantis Problem
And larger-dollar donors in the party are said to favor Trump’s likely top opponent, Ron DeSantis. Even though DeSantis is reportedly uncomfortable at fundraisers, his events have been very successful, and the Florida governor is “now requiring hosts to raise $500,000, at a minimum,” Puck said.
Puck also reported that Trump’s usual fundraising tricks are starting to get old, nearly a decade after the ex-president’s entry into electoral politics.
“For months, I’ve been hearing from top donors that it’s not just Trump fatigue or having to bail out his weak candidates last cycle, like J.D. Vance and Blake Masters. Fundraising events at Mar-a-Lago just feel stale, they tell me. Donors are tired of the Trump golf outings, too,” Puck added, stating that Trump-adjacent candidates have copied the concept and donors have gotten tired of it. Fundraisers at Mar-a-Lago, for instance, have stopped being scarce, and have lost the veneer of exclusivity.
All Is Not Lost for Trump
The fundraising may rebound, however, if Trump is actually arrested.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg News reported that many officials and groups across the political spectrum, both friends and foes of the former president, have been raising money off of the prospect of his arrest. The top Republicans in Congress have sent out such appeals, with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy asking donors to “help Republicans stop this witch hunt.”
Democratic groups like American Bridge PAC and the Democratic Governors Association have also sent out fundraising appeals pegged to the news of a possible Trump indictment.
“Help us continue holding Republicans accountable and defeat them,” the American Bridge appeal said.
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Expertise and Experience:
Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.