Billionaire real estate mogul Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for the U.S. presidency, is starting to ask donors for campaign contributions, as the heretofore self-funding candidate attempts to close the wide money gap with his likely opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Trump, the brash first-time politician who surged to the top of the once-crowded Republican field of candidates, is headed Wednesday to a $25,000-a-head fundraiser outside Los Angeles, following months of bragging to his supporters that he was self-funding his campaign. Trump said he could not be bought and was not beholden to the special interests and big donors who regularly fund U.S. presidential campaigns.
In all, campaign records show Trump loaned his campaign more than $43 million since he first declared his candidacy nearly a year ago. While he also accepted smaller donations from supporters, he shunned overt fundraising.
But after his last challengers dropped out of the nomination contest in early May, the one-time television reality show host said he did not want to sell some of his vast real estate holdings to fund his general election campaign. Instead, he reached an agreement with national Republican Party officials to jointly raise the expected billion dollars he will need heading to November's national election to pick the successor to President Barack Obama, who leaves office in January.
But Trump faces a daunting task in trying to catch up with the fundraising operations for Clinton, the former U.S. secretary of state who is looking to become the first female U.S. president.
Campaign records show she has raised nearly $300 million — often at fundraisers held to tap the pockets of rich donors — compared to Trump’s $59.4 million total, a figure that includes the money he has loaned his campaign.
At the end of April, Clinton had $30 million in her campaign account, compared to Trump's $2 million.
Some titans hold back
Now, as Trump starts to ask other wealthy individuals to fund his campaign, numerous corporate titans — but by no means all — who have donated millions of dollars to Republican presidential candidates in recent elections say they are sitting out the 2016 presidential campaign.
Some say they are disgusted by Trump's demeanor on the campaign trail, as well as his calls to ban Muslims from entering the country, deport 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, and build a wall on the Mexican border to thwart the flow of more migrants into the U.S.
The national Republican Party, however, released a list of corporate executives this week who have agreed to help Trump raise money.
"Clearly, she's going to have massive amounts of money," Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told Reuters, referring to Clinton. "The difference is Mr. Trump has funded his campaign. What we've been able to do in this campaign cycle is to generate earned media based on Mr. Trump's ability to be a straight talker, and genuine and authentic, and I think that's what drives the news cycle."
James Gimpel, a political science professor at the University of Maryland, told VOA, "The Trump campaign needs to go out and hunt for large and small donors. I suspect he'll be able to replace those donors [opting not to donate to him], but it will take some time."
Waiting for ‘winner’
Gimpel said that what some major donors "are waiting for now is to see whether he'll be competitive with Hillary Clinton, making a judgment about his viability."
Some would-be donors may not decide until late August or early September, much closer to the Nov. 8 national election, whether to write big checks to Trump's campaign, Gimpel added.
"These investors are smart," he said. "They want to go with a winner. People will want to be associated with him if the race is competitive."
At the moment, numerous national political surveys show Trump and Clinton in a virtual dead heat, with her earlier double-digit percentage lead over him evaporating within days of Trump becoming the presumptive Republican nominee. Clinton is expected to clinch the Democratic presidential nomination June 7 over her sole challenger, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, when six more states hold nominating contests.
As for Clinton's fund-raising effort, Gimpel said, "She'll do absolutely well."