Trump swamps rivals with huge cash haul while DeSantis fundraising slows

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With less than 100 days before the Iowa caucuses, the 2024 presidential candidates were required to file their third-quarter fundraising reports by midnight Sunday. Former president Donald Trump reported a huge cash advantage over his Republican rivals at the end of September, a haul bolstered by his pleas to his donors to aid his effort as he is set to face multiple legal trials next year. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s fundraising slowed this quarter, as he retooled his campaign to focus more on Iowa. Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.), entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson all spent more than they raised this quarter, while DeSantis and former vice president Mike Pence spent nearly all the money their campaigns raised. Here are a few takeaways from the third-quarter disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission:

Trump dominates in contributions as legal woes mount

Trump far outpaced his Republican rivals in fundraising in the three-month period from July through the end of September, raising more than $24.5 million for his campaign. He began October with $37.5 million in cash to spend, according to reports filed with the FEC on Sunday night. It was not clear from the available data how much of his cash could be used for the primary election.

The disclosures underscored the former president’s dominance in the Republican field and how his supporters view his baseless assertions that he is the victim of a corrupt justice system, driving legions to contribute to his campaign. During the three-month period through the end of September, he campaigned far less than many of his rivals, and his campaign spent just $9.5 million on his reelection effort — just under 40 percent of what he raised, one of the lowest ratios among Republican candidates.

DeSantis fundraising slows as campaign focuses on Iowa

DeSantis had entered the field with considerable bravado earlier this year, as allies framed his fundraising prowess in Florida and the well-funded super PAC aligned with his bid as a juggernaut that could catapult him into a two-man race with Trump. But his campaign overspent in its early days, prompting layoffs and raising questions about its viability, all as DeSantis fell further behind Trump in the polls.

The latest fundraising report reflects that effort to rein in costs, which DeSantis’s team says has set him on a more sustainable course. His campaign expenditures in September totaled about $1.4 million, down from nearly $4 million in August and nearly $6 million in June.

His campaign said he entered October with about $5 million available for the primary, less money than what his top rivals have reported. The campaign said the $5 million accounts for about $1 million in unpaid invoices that appear in its third-quarter report.

DeSantis’s fundraising also has slowed considerably since his campaign launch, when top donors gathered in Miami to work the phones. He raised $20 million in the six weeks after his announcement. In the third quarter running from July 1 through Sept. 30, he brought in $15.1 million through a campaign committee and a joint fundraising committee, which is also raising money for a leadership PAC that was not required to file its disclosures Sunday night. (Money raised through the leadership PAC cannot be used to pay for campaign costs.)

DeSantis saw a spike in contributions toward the end of September, as he swung through the West Coast for the second GOP debate and held high-dollar fundraising events. He saw a similar surge at the end of the second quarter.

Despite cost cutbacks, DeSantis still spending big on private air travel

Private plane companies were a major expense for DeSantis in the third fundraising quarter, even as his campaign sought to cut costs. His campaign paid more than $1.5 million to at least six companies that provide private jets: Advanced Aviation Team, Avion Aviation, Empyreal Jet, Silver Air Private Jets, Israjets and N2024D. The private plane charges were mostly in July and August, with only an Israjets charge showing up in September.

N2024D was paid more than $700,000 — more than any other entity in the DeSantis campaign’s expense report. It was also one of the campaign’s largest vendors in the second fundraising quarter and has allowed the DeSantis campaign and a supportive super PAC to essentially share the cost of private air travel, by providing lower-cost airplane leases — an unusual arrangement underscoring how much DeSantis has relied on the super PAC to cover expenses.

Biden highlights key investments in building its small-dollar donor program

President Biden’s campaign said it raised $71 million in the third quarter — a haul that his team expects to dwarf the sums raised by the Republican field. But as the incumbent president, he has the advantage of collecting large checks from donors in partnership with the national and state parties in sums as large as $929,000. His total includes money from his campaign, the Democratic National Committee and three joint fundraising committees, which can be used to support his reelection effort. Biden’s campaign manager noted that the team has been investing heavily in building its grass-roots program, beating their own expectations about small donors in the third quarter. But when adjusted for inflation, Biden’s total falls short of what Barack Obama and Donald Trump raised at the same point in their reelection campaigns. The president’s reports were not yet available Sunday night.

Haley shows staying power after strong debate performance

Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor who has been on an upward trajectory after strong performances in the first two debates, reported $11.5 million in cash on hand at the beginning of October. Her campaign said $9.1 million of that cash could be used for the primary election, which would put her in a slightly better position than DeSantis, But the amount of money available for the primary rather than the general election could not immediately be verified with available FEC data on Sunday night. Overall, Haley raised $8.2 million between July and the end of September and spent only $3.4 million — giving her one of the lowest burn rates of the GOP candidates. That has helped fuel her argument to donors that she is carefully husbanding her cash to use it with maximum effect as the primaries draw closer.

Challenging path to debate stage for Pence

Reviled by many Trump loyalists because of his refusal to overturn the 2020 presidential election results — a constitutional power he did not unilaterally have — Pence has struggled to build momentum for his presidential bid, both in polling and in fundraising. His reports so far this year have been surprisingly anemic for a former vice president. In his report filed Sunday, he raised nearly $3.4 million in the third quarter but spent nearly as much, leaving his campaign with nearly $1.2 million in cash. He gave $150,000 of his own money to the campaign and has more than $620,000 in debt.

One of the biggest challenges he is facing is qualifying for the third debate on Nov. 8 in Miami. To make the stage, Pence must prove to the Republican National Committee that he has 70,000 unique donors. Asked about his progress toward that goal last week, he replied: “We’re working on it.” About 44 percent of Pence’s donors have given $200 or less to his bid, according to an analysis of his filing.

Tim Scott’s astonishing burn rate

Tim Scott’s campaign and his allied committees have been among the biggest spenders in the 2024 race on television ads, even though he has gained very little traction in the polls. In the third quarter, he raised a modest $4.6 million but spent an eye-popping $12.4 million. At the beginning of October, he had about $13.3 million in cash left.

Christie team highlights a lean operation they hope will carry them to New Hampshire

Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, the most outspoken Trump critic in the field, is pinning his hopes to a surprise finish in New Hampshire that could build momentum for his effort in the South Carolina primary. This quarter he raised almost $3.8 million and spent less than $1.5 million, ending the quarter with about $3.9 million in cash. His advisers argue that keeping their operation small will allow his campaign to go the distance as he focuses on New Hampshire and South Carolina. About a quarter of Christie’s most recent haul came from small donors, and one of his top advisers said their “lean, responsible operation” will give them “runway” as the process moves closer to New Hampshire.

Two other candidates who could face major difficulties in qualifying for the third primary debate are Hutchinson and Burgum. Hutchinson said he failed to meet the polling criteria set by the RNC to qualify for the most recent debate in California. He raised about $666,781 in the third quarter and reported $325,287 in cash available at the end of the period.

Burgum, another long-shot contender, has largely supported his campaign through loans. Of the $11.8 million that his campaign raised through the second quarter, about $10.2 million was loaned to the campaign by the North Dakota governor, a former software entrepreneur. In the third quarter, he loaned another $2 million to his campaign — raising a total of $3.4 million. Burgum’s campaign reported that it had $2.3 million in cash left at the end of September.

Ramaswamy, a tech entrepreneur, also has loaned millions of dollars of his own money to his campaign. He raised $7.4 million in the third quarter and had more than $4.2 million in cash left at the end of September.

Michael Scherer and Meryl Kornfield contributed to this report.

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