Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis struggles to get traction with his campaign. He raised $20 million in the second quarter of 2023, between April and June, but he has been burning through his cash. That was $3 million more than the $17 million raised by former President Donald Trump during the same period.
Trump leads DeSantis on the RealClear Politics Average by 53.7% to 20.2%. The former president’s indictments have been like rocket fuel for his campaign, and DeSantis has struggled to keep up as Trump supporters circle the wagons.
When it comes to cash on hand Trump comfortably leads DeSantis with $22.52 million compared with $12.4 million for the challenger.
“Cash on hand gives a campaign the resources going forward,” says Candice Nelson, a government professor at American University and academic director of the school’s Campaign Management Institute. “If you need to hire more staff, you have the money there to do it. If you want to put together an early field campaign or do direct mail fundraising, there’s just the cash to draw from.”
During the six weeks that DeSantis has formally been in the race, his team spent $7.87 million, roughly 39% of what it raised. That includes over a million in payroll for 92 staffers. It’s also not a good sign for the campaign as it moves toward more expensive phases of the campaign that lay ahead.
Trump’s campaign spent $9.31 million but was raising more money and had smaller overhead with approximately 40 staffers.
Campaign donations act as a barometer as to whether a candidate resonates with voters. Trump’s ability to maintain a loyal cadre of voters in the GOP is the biggest headwind DeSantis faces.
Ron DeSantis reportedly has had to lay off staffers as the campaign focuses on Iowa.
Ron DeSantis Has Small-Donor Problem
DeSantis’ biggest problem is he is not getting as many small donors as he needs. Only 15% of DeSantis’ donations come from small donors.
“Fundraising numbers are like the canary in the coal mine,” says Michael Toner, a Republican campaign finance expert since the 1990s and former chair of the Federal Election Commission. “It’s one of your first indications of whether a candidate is connecting with people in the party’s base, whether they’re generating enthusiasm and whether their message is resonating.”
Small donors are a sign that a candidate and his or her message resonates with voters. NPR found after looking at DeSantis Federal Election Commission (FEC) records that he relies heavily on large donors. Most of DeSantis’ large donors have already maxed out their legally allowed contributions.
By contrast, Trump and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy have pulled at least half of their donations from small donors.
Ron DeSantis has relied heavily on a Super PAC supporting his candidacy to run advertisements on his behalf.
In contrast, Trump has several committees raising money for his bid for a second non-consecutive term.
Wealthy Challengers Spending Own Money
Their wealthy competitors in the single digits are self-funding their own campaigns.
Ramaswamy, who is worth at least $630 million, has loaned his campaign $16 million so far; however, he has spent more than any other candidate at $10 million. That’s a 53% burn rate.
Billionaire North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum has spent $8.1 million and has spent 69% of the money he has spent on his campaign. He also is promising the first 50,000 people who donate $1 or more to his campaign to give them a $20 Visa or Mastercard gift card.
John Rossomando is a defense and counterterrorism analyst and served as Senior Analyst for Counterterrorism at The Investigative Project on Terrorism for eight years. His work has been featured in numerous publications such as The American Thinker, The National Interest, National Review Online, Daily Wire, Red Alert Politics, CNSNews.com, The Daily Caller, Human Events, Newsmax, The American Spectator, TownHall.com, and Crisis Magazine. He also served as senior managing editor of The Bulletin, a 100,000-circulation daily newspaper in Philadelphia, and received the Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors first-place award for his reporting.