President Trump's Unorthodox Campaign Strategy Is Paying Off
About the time that he was drafting his first inaugural address, President-elect Donald Trump, as he characteristically does, made a series of decisions at odds with all conventional political logic.
Twenty-seven months later, as we review the most recent Federal Election Commission reports filed by the reelection campaign, I can report that it all paid off — big league.
Having served Trump for President since July 2015, this is my sixth presidential campaign, going back to Bob Dole’s 1988 bid. Conventional wisdom says that the day after you win a presidential election, you fire everybody except the lawyers and the accountants, put the campaign apparatus in hibernation, pay down your debts slowly, and start to rebuild the machine from scratch after the midterm elections.
Unsurprisingly, Donald Trump had absolutely no interest in the conventional approach followed by all establishment politicians, as this president has always been his own best strategist.
So, as he’s done countless times since coming down the Trump Tower escalator on June 16, 2015, Donald Trump turned the presidential campaign playbook on its head. Rather than draw down his campaign efforts, he kept the most important elements that helped deliver his 2016 victory — such as digital marketing, media productions, and, of course, the team that fills arenas for his signature rallies around the country — churning at full speed.
Conventional wisdom also dictates keeping the national party committees and the presidential campaign itself largely separate, especially at the state level where local party organizations and state campaign offices traditionally operate in tandem.
By contrast, and again at Donald Trump’s own initiative, we’ve effectively integrated our national and state campaigns with the RNC and the state parties. This allows us to eliminate redundancies and unify messaging in a way we could only dream of in 2016 and, crucially, to launch an unprecedented joint fundraising effort ahead of what is likely to be the most expensive presidential campaign in American history.
Any doubts about the merit of these strategies seem to have melted away with the first quarter 2019 FEC reporting. Donald J. Trump for President Inc. and the Republican National Committee raised a combined $76.1 million in the first three months of this year. The two entities now have over $80 million in combined cash on hand, 21 times the amount Barack Obama and the DNC had mustered up by the same time in 2011.
This massive war chest gives the president a significant advantage over the crowded field of Democratic challengers, who can’t rely on their own party’s fundraising apparatus in nearly the same way. Worse yet for this field of candidates, the DNC is still more than $6 million in debt, with a mere $9.3 million cash on hand.
Equally important is the distribution of the donations the Trump campaign has received so far, 98.79 percent of which have come from donors contributing $200 or less. That is a direct reflection of the historic grassroots support for President Trump.
The president’s success at cultivating a broad base of small donors is advantageous for more than just the sake of appearances. Campaigns that rely on a small set of prolific major donors are notoriously vulnerable, because once they give the maximum amount allowed in a given election cycle, those large donors cannot donate any further. They can’t sustain a campaign in the later stages, and they are difficult or impossible to replace with new deep-pocketed supporters.
A broad base of small donors, on the other hand, can continue to make small contributions of $50 or $100 throughout the campaign, and most of those donors never hit FEC limits.
The enthusiasm of the president’s base isn’t letting up, either, especially not in the wake of the Mueller Report’s release. The president’s total exoneration from the three-year “Russia collusion” hoax spurred over $1 million in donations to the Trump campaign in just the first two days after the report’s release.
President Trump took a calculated gamble with his unorthodox reelection strategy, and the bet is paying off — huge!