Tuesday, December 7

Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis doesn’t stop 2020 fundraising

  • President Trump’s campaign continued to push’win-a-trip-with-the-president’ fundraising gimmicks immediately before and after his COVID-19 diagnosis.
  • Both Democrats and Republicans continue to aggressively fundraise despite questions about Trump’s ability to campaign and even serve as president.
  • “I don’t think it changes anything,” a Democratic fundraising consultant who raises money for a pro-Joe Biden super PAC told Insider.
  • One Democratic political committee on Friday accused Trump of’intentionally fanning the flames of white supremacy for years.’
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump may be sidelined for now with COVID-19 but it’s not stopping his reelection campaign from trying to rake in the dough.

Late Thursday night, just an hour before Trump revealed on Twitter that he’d contracted the novel coronavirus his 2020 team blasted out an email to supporters asking for money.

Given the news of the moment, it looked, um, awkward.

“Can you come to Los Angeles with me?” Trump wrote, promising a chance to win a trip in exchange for a donation. “I’m hosting a very important event soon, and rather than spend my time with the Hollywood ELITES who HATE US, I want to spend my time with REAL Patriots, like YOU.”

That wasn’t the only one. Early Friday morning, hours after Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis, the Trump campaign sent another email, this one promising a “one-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to travel with Trump to Houston. “Contribute ANY MOUNT IMMEDIATELY to win a trip,” it shouted.

Sure, Trump’s in-person campaign trips have since been canceled. His cash dash? Not so much.

Expect nothing — not even Trump’s health — to stop both Republicans and Democrats alike from incessantly raising money.

The stakes are simply too high: Cash is the lifeblood of electoral politics, and with one month until election day, partisans are scratching for every advantage possible in a race that outside experts estimate will end in about $11 billion spent to win the White House and control of Congress.

“I don’t think it changes anything,” said Cooper Teboe, a Democratic fundraising consultant who raises money for the pro-Biden super PAC Unite the Country and several congressional campaigns.

Teboe made a prediction Friday morning that Trump’s diagnosis won’t cause either party’s cash machine to throttle back.

“Republican fundraising is in a total lull and Democratic fundraising is going nuts. It’s hard to see Republicans get any worse or Democrats spend any more than the wild amounts they already are,” he said.

Republicans enter the Election 2020 presidential homestretch at a competitive disadvantage, with Democrat Joe Biden’s campaign effort recently raising more money than Trump’s operation.

While it’s “too soon to know” how Trump’s diagnosis will specifically affect fundraising strategy, National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Chris Pack said his committee is pushing ahead with all efforts to elect conservatives to the US House.

“We have been making tweaks to our game plan since the lockdown first started in the early spring and will continue doing so as Chairman [Tom] Emmer deems necessary down the home stretch,” Pack said, noting how his committee has increasingly migrated to virtual fundraisers.

Not all Republicans have, with many choosing to raise money in-person, where donors get real facetime — not Zoom or FaceTime facetime — with candidates.

Trump on Thursday conducted an in-person fundraiser at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, raising the prospect that he infected attendees. This summer, Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas had to postpone a major birthday bash fundraiser in Texas when he contracted the novel coronavirus.

biden president

Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden on July 28, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware.

Mark Makela/Getty Images

A fundraising pause? No.

Immediately after Trump announced his diagnosis, political candidates’ incessant fundraising pitches appeared to slow for the briefest of moments Friday.

But not for long.

In the 9 am hour, House Minority Whip Steve Scalice emailed NRCC backers for a donation because “defeating Pelosi and retaking Trump’s Majority will require all Conservatives to rally together!” he said.

“THIS IS ABOUT YOUR PRESIDENT’S LEGACY,” the NRCC emailed three hours later in asking for money again.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican embroiled in a surprisingly close reelection race in his otherwise deep red state, bemoaned an influx of Democratic cash. On Friday, Graham, one of Trump’s most staunch allies, urged supporters in an email to “please step up immediately to counter the unprecedented liberal cash pouring into South Carolina with your generous contribution of $25, $50, $75, $100, or even more today.”

Democrats are proving to be equally aggressive despite the dramatic early-morning announcement the most powerful person on the planet is ill with a virus that has killed more than 1 million worldwide — including more than 200,000 in the United States.

“BREAKING: Trump tests positive for COVID-19” is the subject line of a Friday morning fundraising email from former Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro, who wrote: “After nine months of downplaying the virus and blaming others for its spread, Donald Trump has contracted the virus he called a hoax.”

Castro then asked for a donation to his People First Future PAC, which largely supports a slate of up-and-coming Democratic congressional candidates.

Biden’s campaign pinged supporters by email early Friday afternoon, explaining that “the money we raise today is critical in keeping our ads on air to share our message with folks in important battleground states.”

The When Democrats Turn Out PAC this morning accused Trump of “intentionally fanning the flames of white supremacy for years.” It then asked for “$25, or whatever you can spare, to help save our country from becoming the hateful hellscape Trump wants it to be.”

On behalf of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote late Friday morning that she “just learned Mitch McConnell and President Trump’s wealthy donors rushed Republicans $359 MILLION to win the Senate, crush our Majority, and ruin our Supreme Court.”

She added: “Can I count on your immediate $1?”

Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Senate candidate Jon Ossoff of Georgia are among other Democrats actively soliciting campaign cash amid the fallout from Trump’s COVID diagnosis.

At least one seemingly fake Trump email solicitation also circulated Friday morning — a reminder that Trump’s health situation will likely embolden rogue actors seeking to sow chaos and disseminate disinformation between now and Election Day.

Trump yells

President Donald Trump delivers remarks to the news media during a meeting with bankers on COVID-19 coronavirus response, inside the Cabinet Room at the White House in Washington on March 11, 2020.

REUTERS/Tom Brenner

Using emotion to raise money

The ability of the Trump campaign and GOP as a whole to use Trump’s diagnosis to bolster already lackluster small-donor fundraising will be a key test of Republican Party efforts to drive financial engagement from emotionally intense news events.

Democrats and groups aligned with the party have all but mastered this technique. At the beginning of the summer, for example, the Democratic fundraising platform ActBlue processed $20 million in donations following the protests surrounding the Memorial Day death of George Floyd, which was the then-single largest fundraising day in the platform’s history.

Similar surges in contributions came following the announcement that Sen. Kamala Harris of California would become Biden’s vice presidential running mate — the first woman of color on a major party ticket running for the White House.

In the 24 hours following the historic Harris announcement, 11,000 donors spontaneously contributed donations in the specific amount of $19.08, which is the year that Alpha Kappa Alpha, the oldest Black sorority in the United States, was founded.

Most significant among all the spontaneous, emotionally-driven giving was the $91.4 million raised on the platform in the 28-hour period following the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, a record by far, which entailed a one-hour period late on a Friday night where $6.3 million was processed in a one-hour period, at one point averaging $100,000 per minute.

The evolution of ActBlue has made it easier than ever for Americans to contribute — sometimes repeatedly — to political campaigns and causes. Since the platform lets prospective donors save their credit-card information, making a one-click impulse political contribution is as easy as spontaneously buying a kitchen gadget or power tool off Amazon.

Republicans last year launched their answer to ActBlue: a now widely adopted fundraising platform called WinRed. How Republicans use this platform to appeal to conservatives concerned for the president’s health is unclear, particularly with the president unable to personally conduct in-person campaign events.

“I suspect that campaign resources will be redirected to increased media presence and remote campaigning techniques will be developed,” said John J. Farmer, Jr., director of the Rutgers’ Eagleton Institute of Politics. “Just as so many businesses and educational institutions have had to adapt to remoteness and have done so successfully, so the president’s campaign will have to adapt. I’m sure it will.”

The Center for Responsive Politics on Thursday estimated that federal-level political committees have together already shattered spending records and that the cost of Election 2020 will approach $11 billion.

Loading Something is loading.