Can Clinton’s Big War Chest Buy the Election?

Can Clinton’s Big War Chest Buy the Election?

REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Hillary Clinton has had a tough week, but here’s something she’s doing extremely well: raising enormous amounts of money. As of late August, Clinton had raised a total of $446.4 million (including through SuperPacs) compared to Donald Trump’s $137.3 million. That’s a prodigious advantage and one that could certainly make the difference in a tight race. You would think the media would be all over this story, but they’re not.

Maybe that’s because Clinton continues to rail about Big Money in politics, even as she rakes it in. Or maybe it’s because her giant cash advantage points up just how weak the candidate is. Even though Clinton has spent $349.6 million so far compared to Trump’s meager $96.7 million, the race is nearly even.

Related: Democrat Clinton Raised More Than $140 Million in August

Still, Hillary’s campaign apparently thinks money can buy her much-needed love.  Early efforts to make Clinton more “likable” came up short as outings like the cross-country trip in her “Scooby” van and (secretly scripted) chance meetings with everyday Americans flopped. As the campaign has progressed, her unfavorable ratings have steadily climbed. A recent CNN poll shows her negatives are now worse than Trump’s, and that’s an accomplishment.

Consequently, she has fallen back on safe turf – raising buckets of money. She spent much of the summer holed up in one elitist encampment after another, schmoozing with billionaires, eager to curry favor with the Democrat candidate. She trolled for dollars in luxe enclaves like the Hamptons and Martha’s Vineyard and scored big time – raising $143 million compared to Trump’s $90 million. In the final two weeks of the month, The New York Times reports, Clinton scooped up around $50 million, “averaging around $150,000 an hour…”  

And, she’s still at it. The events canceled because of her pneumonia included several more fund-raisers in Los Angeles and Silicon Valley. Her focus on hauling in big bucks comes at a price, though. It takes her out of public view and makes you wonder--what is she telling all those billionaires?

Donald Trump scored points in August by visiting flood victims in Louisiana and meeting with the president of Mexico. Hillary Clinton was resting and meeting with donors. Those gatherings are strictly off-limits to reporters who have had access to only 5 of more than 300 of Clinton’s fundraisers since the start of her campaign. So intense is the Clinton blackout that at a recent event in Martha’s Vineyard, her aides asked drivers of the press vans to roll up their windows so Hillary’s comment could not be overheard.

Related: Trump Raises About $90 Million in August

That secrecy prompts curiosity about what Clinton promises her devoted followers – those rich enough to shell out the required $250,000, for example, to attend a recent gathering in the Hamptons.  Or those lucky enough to join the former First Lady in dancing with Jimmy Buffett, Jon Bon Jovi and Paul McCartney. It turns out she tells them what they want to hear-- that she’ll be more welcoming to businesses than President Obama. That she’ll have an open mind about banking regulation, reminding guests, as The New York Times notes, that she once represented the financial sector as a senator from New York. And on trade, that she may be flexible.

In other words, Hillary is pretty much dismissing the positions she took during the primaries to rid herself of the pesky Bernie Sanders.  

Clinton wouldn’t be the first candidate to say one thing in public and another behind closed doors. But her Jekyll and Hyde persona is jarring – the earnest do-gooder is ill at ease with the diva hanging out at Steven Spielberg’s mansion. No wonder only 38 percent of voters – and only 29 percent of whites – thinks she cares about them.  

That’s where the money comes in; she will use her hundreds of millions to plaster the country with ads demonizing Trump and paying thousands to turn out the vote. 

According to one source, her campaign has spent $127 million on ad buys in seven toss-up states compared to only $18 million for Trump. In Pennsylvania, Clinton has reserved nine times as much TV time as Trump; in Ohio, her advantage is six to one. In New Hampshire and Iowa Trump has reserved zero air time – and Clinton has locked up a bunch.

Related: Worried About Trump, GOP Donors Back Paul Ryan and His Congressional ‘Firewall’

Clinton’s money haul will not only give her a big TV advantage, but it also allows her to open more offices, organize more phone banks, send out more flyers and otherwise invest in the machinery of delivering votes and voters on election day. One analysis claims Clinton has more than three times the number of campaign offices in swing states as Trump does.  

In many states, Trump is represented mainly through Republican Party offices, which will be working to elect not just Mr. Trump but local officials as well. That’s not always ideal, and especially this year when the party is split in some key states (Ohio comes to mind). Obama adviser David Axelrod has said that Clinton’s money advantage could deliver a one to three percentage point difference in swing states. As the race tightens, that could be the margin of victory.

Trump has famously derided reliance on the kind of data that helped deliver an Obama victory in 2008 and has crowed about his unexpected success in winning the primaries despite organization and budget deficits compared to several of his rivals. His campaign hopes that the fervor of his followers will yield a large number of volunteers who will corral voters and produce a tide of donations as we near Election Day.

Trump and his supporters, in other words, are hoping for an upset – not only of Hillary Clinton but of the way we have elected presidents for decades. Will Americans deliver? Time will tell.