The Corner

Politics & Policy

Donald Trump’s One-Day Fundraising Haul Is Probably Bogus

Apologists for the viability of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign have their answers, desperate though they may be, to the historically bad state of his polling. But there’s no precedent in modern presidential campaigns for the desperate condition of Trump’s fundraising and organization, and that may weigh even heavier on the minds of GOP convention delegates as late July approaches. A USA Today report this morning found that the vast majority of big-dollar donors to past Republican candidates like Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush were avoiding Trump. Erick Erickson has argued that Trump probably fell below $1 million cash on hand in June and has been doing so many events in Manhattan because he can no longer afford to take his 757 on the road on a regular basis.

Trump tried to push back on grim assessments of his latest fun​draising with a single fundraising email that his campaign claimed to have used to raise $3.3 million. Now Tim Mak at the Daily Beast reports skepticism from a number of professional fundraisers at the plausibility of that figure, based partly on past experience with one-day fundraisers (even the colossal Obama money machine never raised that much from a single email) and partly on empirical examinations of Trump’s mailing list. A sample:

Due to spam filters, an incredible 60 percent of Trump’s appeals never even made it to individual inboxes, per Return Path’s data. . . . Of those emails that made it through to inboxes, just 12 percent were opened. Six percent of those emails were deleted without having been read. . . . 

Return Path’s data shows that Ted Cruz, who is no longer even in the presidential race, had a donor list that was 3.7 times larger in May than Trump’s donor list is today. And when you compare Hillary Clinton’s approximate donor list size with Trump’s, you find that Clinton’s list is seven times larger. . . . 

Marketing firm eDataSource estimated at the beginning of June that Trump’s list size was 1.1 million, compared to 9.4 million for Clinton and 5.3 million for Bernie Sanders.

In other words, it’s not impossible that Trump raised so much money in one day — and some of Mak’s sources are progressives with no obvious incentive to be fair to Trump — but logistically alone, it’s very unlikely. You can’t lie about your fundraising in politics without paying a price at the next FEC reporting deadline, but of course, sometimes just surviving until the next deadline is viewed by struggling campaigns as being worth the risk.

That said, the one consolation for Trump from Mak’s report is that most Americans still can’t tell the difference between his press coverage and a Trump ad:

In the 10 day period from June 10 to June 19, not a single Trump campaign advertisement appeared in the nation’s top 60 media markets. Despite this fact, surveys taken by the advertising technology company Fluent show that 48 percent of Americans believed they saw a Trump television ad over a similar timeframe.

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