Donors who are part of the Republican Party’s libertarian business establishment have been referred to in the past as “Country Club Republicans.” They find themselves in a state of distress, as Donald Trump remains resilient despite 91 criminal charges and multiple civil actions.
Trump continues to run away with the race for the GOP nomination. The former president leads his nearest challenger, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, by 37 points in the latest polling for the Iowa caucuses. A UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll found that Trump is on track to win that state’s delegation, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Joe Biden’s weakness in the polls against Trump likewise is triggering panic. Lawsuits challenging Trump’s fitness to remain on the ballot under the 14th Amendment proliferate due to worries that he could win it all. John Anthony Castro, a registered Republican and the plaintiff in a case pending before the Supreme Court, said as much in a post on X.
Donors in Denial on Donald Trump
“I refuse to accept the proposition that Donald Trump is the ‘inevitable’ Republican nominee for President,” Eric Levine, a New York lawyer and Republican fund-raiser, wrote in an email to roughly 1,500 donors, politicians, and friends according to The New York Times. “His nomination would be a disaster for our party and our country.”
The donor class reflects the pre-Reagan liberalism of the Rockefeller Republicans who were socially liberal yet favored fiscal restraint and have little in common with the current base of the party. Trump’s ascendancy has also deprived them of a base, as millions of liberal-leaning Republicans, particularly in suburban counties, have realigned and become Democrats.
Trump is not just a candidate. He is a phenomenon. Biden won in 2020 by and large because voters were turned off by Trump’s personality. Twenty-five percent of voters in an August 2020 Pew poll said Trump’s “hot headed” personality was a concern for them.
Some donors are optimistic that Trump will drop out of the race due to his legal troubles, even though the candidate himself says he would run from prison if he had to.
“You’re at 2 percent, and he’s at 53 percent,” Fred Zeidman, a Texas businessman who is an enthusiastic backer of Nikki Haley, said he told her while exaggerating their polling differential. “He ain’t going to erode that much. Something needs to happen to him for you to overtake him.”
Donors Thought GOP Debate was Childish
Some donors looked at last month’s Republican primary presidential debate and privately told The New York Times that it looked a bit like the “kid’s table” due to Trump’s nonparticipation.
Another Texas-based GOP fundraiser told The New York Times under the condition of anonymity that some donors are keeping their checkbooks to themselves because they are privately resigned to the inevitable.
“Intellectually, their heads explode,” he said.
Large donors are holding back from supporting Trump, in contrast with prior years, likely due to the poisoning of Trump’s brand following the 2020 election and the events of January 6. Most donations to Trump are small contributions from his millions of committed supporters. The New York Times reports that Trump has only received 25 donations of over $100,000.
These include $2 million from casino magnate Phil Ruffin and $1 million from former real estate developer Charles Kushner, whom he pardoned.
Former neoconservative icon Bill Kristol expressed frustration.
“We know what a world would look like if real conservative elites really decided they wanted to get rid of Donald Trump,” Kristol said. “And that’s not the world we are living in.”
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.