Donald Trump likes to pretend he self-funded his campaign during the Republican primary, but now that he’s the presumptive Republican nominee, the Republican National Committee is holding his hand as he learns how to be a real politician and ask his supporters — and large conservative donors and bundlers — for money.
Though both candidates for president in 2012 spent nearly a billion dollars each on their efforts, Trump’s betting he can spend a fraction of that based on the “free media” he receives from cable news. Still, raising even half that amount is much more than Trump can afford.
In fact, fundraising has become Trump’s priority: He’s spending his time fundraising in solidly Republican states instead of focusing on battleground ones, and last week, Trump and RNC Chairman Reince Preibus went on a Southern fundraising tour.
On Thursday, he tried to fit in in Texas. In a rally at Gilley’s ballroom in Dallas, the New York billionaire connected with the crowd by referencing the 1980 film Urban Cowboy, in which John Travolta rides a mechanical bull.
“I read about this place,” Trump said, presidential as ever. “Where’s that horse? I want to go on that horse!” After security escorted out a protester wearing a cowboy hat, Trump got an idea. “We’ll say ‘Make America Great Again’ on a cowboy hat!” he told the crowd.
Trump hasn’t shown a great deal of tact in his fundraising efforts. Days after the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Trump’s campaign sent a fundraising email asking supporters to “make America safe again.”
On Saturday, the Trump campaign announced an “emergency” fundraising drive, asking supporters to help raise $100,000 by the end of the day, because “Crooked Hillary is about to invade your TV with ads attacking Mr. Trump. But we’re preparing to fight back.”
“Right now we’re facing an emergency goal of $100,000 to help get our ads on the air. We need your contribution by 11:59 P.M. Tonight,” an email from the Trump campaign pleaded.
It doesn’t help that Trump seems to hate brown-nosing the rich for contributions, a practice that has become daily ritual for nearly everyone in national elected office. CNN reported Monday:
While Trump is described by those who have seen him as charming in these intimate receptions — he gamely signed a newspaper column in Sharpie that a donor in Houston wrote to endorse him — Republican fundraisers recognize that whether it’s disinterest, a poor work ethic or some combination of both, he’s undermining himself.
There are very few people who like to do the ask, so I can understand why Donald Trump — first time at age 70 — doesn’t want to make the ask,” said one longtime RNC fundraiser. “He doesn’t want to make the calls. He’s just in a little bit better position to avoid it than I am.”
Trump himself appears to acknowledge his general distaste for the practice, telling NBC News in an interview last week: “I don’t ask for money. They come to me.”
Then, after spending the week asking for money, Trump threatened to self-fund his campaign in one of his toddler-like temper tantrums.
“If for any reason they get a little bit like they don’t want to help out as much, I’ll fund my own campaign,” he said of GOP leadership, who seem increasingly nervous about supporting him. “I’d love to do that.”