Donald Trump, pivoting from a largely self-funded presidential primary campaign to a general election bid dependent on deep-pocketed donors, earlier this week launched a joint fundraising operation with the Republican National Committee.
But the presumptive GOP nominee must compete with the established network of donors coalescing around his likely Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, while wooing the wealthy Republican backers he alienated earlier in his campaign.
Trump and his surrogates said they must bring in at least $1 billion in the months leading up to the November vote — roughly the amounts raised by Barack Obama and Mitt Romney during their 2012 White House bids.
The real estate mogul sunk nearly $36 million of his fortune into his war chest, according to the latest Federal Election Commission filings, but he told MSNBC that going forward, “I’ll be asking for money for the party.”
Trump took his biggest step yet toward appealing to inner-circle Republican donors by announcing agreements Tuesday with the national GOP for two committees capable of accepting maximum individual contributions of $449,400.
Trump Victory and the Trump Make America Great Again Committee will go up against a similar arrangement that Clinton, the former U.S. secretary of state, has with the Democratic National Committee.
The Hillary Victory Fund — with an individual donation cap of $365,100 — has a head start. Up and running since September, it had pulled in $60 million as of March 31, according to FEC filings.
Clinton also has in her corner a much larger bevy of super PACs able to raise unlimited sums of money.
“There’s still a long way to go between signing an agreement and raising the money,” Michael Malbin, executive director of the Campaign Finance Institute in Washington, D.C., said of Trump’s efforts. “It’s very important to repair these relationships and to get the organization going. Unless that’s done, it’s hard to see how Trump can raise enough to put out enough messaging in the fall to counter what’s going to come at him.”
Malbin said the candidate, to his credit, had “shown a singular ability to control the news cycle in the last six months.”
The most recent FEC records show Trump spent $47 million in the primary compared to $158 million by Clinton and $168 million by her Democratic rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
“Trump can conduct an experiment and run on pennies on the dollar to what other candidates have spent,” said Jonathan Krasno, a Binghamton University associate professor of political science and campaign finance expert. “It won’t change the fact that he will get a ton of coverage and everyone will know about him. What it will change is his ability to open offices and hand out pamphlets and have people walk door to door for him.”
Trump seems to know the general election is a different beast.
“We’re going to try and raise over a billion dollars, which is what’s going to be necessary,” he told NBC recently. “The Democrats maybe will get as high as 2 billion dollars.”
Anthony Scaramucci, a New York entrepreneur and member of Trump’s national finance committee, told Fox News that the campaign is a “little behind,” but will meet its goal by targeting the “nontraditional bundler community.”
The campaign is set to host its inaugural fundraiser next Wednesday in California with Thomas Barrack Jr., a real estate investor and former chairman of Miramax.
Trump’s national finance chairman Steven Mnuchin, hired earlier this month, met with oil titan T. Boone Pickens and other potential big-money backers last week at an economic conference in Las Vegas. Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson appealed Monday via email to Republicans in the Jewish community for contributions for Trump, according to The Associated Press.