Trump’s donor numbers fall by 200,000 compared with 2019

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Donald Trump entered the 2024 election year with about 200,000 fewer donors than in the previous presidential campaign four years ago, raising questions about his fundraising machine just as legal bills eat into his war chest.

The Trump campaign and affiliated political action committees attracted roughly 516,000 donors in the second half of last year, compared with 740,000 at the same stage of his last race for the White House, according to Financial Times analysis of the latest data.

President Joe Biden had 473,000 donors in the second half of 2023 — fewer than his likely rival in this year’s White House race, but almost double the number in the second half of 2019, when Biden was competing for the Democratic nomination.

Trump and affiliated groups raised $189mn from his donors in 2023, while Biden drew in $202mn from a smaller donor base.

The decline in donors was “obviously not a good thing”, said a campaign official who worked on Trump’s 2020 bid. While “red signs of danger” were not yet flashing, Trump would urgently need to make up the numbers, the official added. The Trump campaign declined to comment. 

“Especially on the small-dollar side, we need that to happen quickly, so that person continues giving over the course of the campaign,” the official said. “The question now is once he becomes the nominee, how quickly can he get those folks back into the fold.”

The drop in Trump’s donor numbers compared with 2019 could be “yet another sign that there’s donor fatigue”, said Republican strategist Eric Wilson, as political supporters across the board grow numb to digital fundraising tactics.

Rising living costs could also have dissuaded donors, Wilson added, as could rival Republican candidates competing for funds, which Trump, as the then incumbent president, did not face last time.

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Small donors — those giving $200 or less — have been critical to Trump’s campaigns, as deeper-pocketed Wall Street donors have directed money to his rivals.

Signs of flagging donor backing for Trump last year come amid predictions that the 2024 White House race could be the most expensive ever, beating the 2020 contest, when Biden raised a record $1bn in donations, and Trump hauled in about $775mn.

It also comes as Trump’s legal problems — and costs — begin to consume much of his time and the funds he will need for a gruelling re-election race. Pro-Trump groups spent more than $50mn on his legal fees last year.

On Friday, a New York judge ordered him to pay more than $350mn in fines for committing financial fraud. A day later, Trump raised money by selling out a limited supply of $399 gold coloured shoes.

On Tuesday, the Biden campaign announced that it pulled in $42mn in January and had amassed a $130mn campaign war chest, which it said was a record amount for a Democratic candidate at this stage of the campaign.

Pro-Trump groups reported that they had $65mn of cash on hand at the end of 2023. The national Democratic party also opened up a significant cash advantage over the Republican party last year, outraising their Republican counterparts by more than $70mn.

While Trump’s legal bills and penalties have mounted, the former president also used his four criminal indictments last year to raise money. His best fundraising day among small-dollar donors came on August 25, after he surrendered to authorities in Atlanta on felony charges that he sought to overturn the 2020 election.

Just after he surrendered, Trump’s campaign released his mugshot on T-shirts and mugs, drawing in about 85,000 contributions — about 10 times more than a typical day — to bring in almost $4.3mn.

Groups supporting Nikki Haley, Trump’s challenger in the Republican primary, had only 166,000 donors for the whole of last year, fewer than Trump received in the week surrounding the release of his mugshot.

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