In an otherwise horrific week for Donald Trump, one piece of good news shone through the mire of attacks on grieving parents, terrible poll numbers and rumors of a coming campaign shake-up: Trump’s fundraising operation appears to be running extremely well -- to the point of nearly matching the July totals announced by his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.
In typical Trumpian fashion, the campaign released the numbers in a press release touting his “$80 million haul,” but there was legitimate reason for crowing. The campaign took in $64 million in direct donations over the course of July, and raised another $16 million at 20 fundraising events held in conjunction with the Republican National Committee.
At a time when more and more Republican lawmakers are reconsidering their support for him or even disavowing him completely, the fundraising numbers contain another vital bit of information: A large share of that cash is coming from small-dollar donors who remain sufficiently energized by Trump to write him a check or to go online to donate.
That could signal that, even as the Republican elite begins to get cold feet, a strong core of supporters still stands behind the billionaire political novice. And Trump wants everyone to know it.
He’s been touting the numbers at campaign events all week. While 20 Clinton donors combined to give $60 million to her campaign, he said, he took in $35.8 million from small-dollar donors giving an average of between $60 and $70 apiece.
“Most Republicans, they’d get like three people giving $12 and they’d say, ‘Well, that’s about as good as we’re going to get.’ But we’re going to have close to 60,000 people,” Trump said at a campaign stop in Virginia earlier this week.
Former investment banker Steve Mnuchin, Trump’s finance chair, also stressed the composition of the campaign’s donor pool. “We are extremely proud of our 69% growth in small dollar donations which shows the broad based support of over one million donors across America,” he said in a statement. “Our volunteers and contributors are clearly committed to electing Donald J. Trump as President in November.”
In boasting about his successful fundraising, Trump is doing more than his standard self-promotion.
In a week when House Speaker Paul Ryan and other senior GOP lawmakers are coming under increased pressure to revoke their endorsements of Trump, it also sends a message about what would happen if the former reality television star decides he has been betrayed by the GOP establishment. With the loyalty of millions of GOP voters, Trump could cause massive problems for the party up and down the ballot in November, and possibly beyond.
That is almost certainly a major reason why Ryan, fresh off learning that his own party’s presidential nominee had refused to endorse him for reelection -- even after Ryan endorsed him for president -- still can’t make the break from Trump.
"You would think we ought to be focusing on Hillary Clinton and all of her deficiencies,” he told Wisconsin radio host Jerry Bader on Thursday. “She is such a weak candidate that one would think we would be on offense against Hillary Clinton. It is distressing that this is not what we're talking about these days."
Even as he admitted that Trump’s recent attacks on the parents of a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq were “beyond the pale,” he said that he would still stand behind Trump.
“We are a party where the grassroots Republican primary voter selects our nominee and that's as it should be and that it what it is. I think there's something to be said about respecting those voters,” Ryan said.
“But if I see and hear things that I think are wrong, I'm not going to sit by and say nothing because I think I have a duty as a Republican leader to defend Republican principles and our party's brand.”
Left unsaid was that the person he’s defending it from is the same guy he is telling people to elect as the next president.