President Donald Trump’s campaign finance problems are even worse than they looked a few weeks ago.
Joe Biden’s campaign outraised Trump’s by an eye-catching $200 million in September and started October with $177 million in the bank. That’s a nearly 3-to-1 edge over Trump’s $63 million, putting Trump at a deficit without parallel in the modern era of campaign financing, especially for a sitting president. The last incumbent to face reelection, Barack Obama, had nearly $100 million left to spend at this point in 2012, while his challenger, Mitt Romney, had almost exactly the amount Trump has left this year.
Altogether, including the campaigns, national parties and affiliated fundraising committees, Biden announced a cash edge of $432 million to Trump’s $251 million earlier this month, but the campaign-to-campaign comparison is important — and even more stark.
The wide fundraising disparity is translating into a significant spending gap favoring Biden. Trump has cut back his TV ad reservations in key states and is being vastly outspent in other battlegrounds, a turn of events that would have seemed unlikely at best in March, when had a nine-figure cash edge over Biden as the former vice president emerged from a contested Democratic primary.
Trump’s sprawling campaign machinery and his cash edge led then-campaign manager Brad Parscale to compare it to Star Wars’ “Death Star.” But Biden has hit new campaign heights, powered by a potent combination of wealthy Democrats and energetic small-dollar donors.
Certainly, Trump pulled off a victory in 2016 despite being outraised and outspent by Hillary Clinton. But the dire financial picture is worrying many Republican strategists, who argue a sitting incumbent should be better positioned and that the lack of money compounds the president’s polling deficit and his struggles with the coronavirus pandemic.
“The obstacles to victory are mounting and the clock is ticking,” said Ken Spain, a Republican consultant. “It will likely take a political earthquake to change the trajectory of this race.”
Here are the top things we learned from Biden and Trump’s latest campaign finance disclosures.
Biden is spending more money and has more left to spend
Biden’s campaign raised $282 million in September to Trump’s $81 million, not only building up more cash in reserve but sending his spending into overdrive, outstripping Trump.
On TV ads in September, Biden outspent Trump more than 2-to-1, $173 million to $69 million, according to Advertising Analytics, a media tracking firm.
The spending disparity looks even worse in the three Great Lakes states Trump flipped to win the White House in 2016, where the president is now getting drowned out on TV. In Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, Biden outspent Trump by more than 4-to-1 last month. The disparity was little better in Michigan, where Biden spent $15.3 million to Trump’s $4 million.