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What could stunt Trump and the Republicans from winning in November?

Republican presidential candidate former U.S. President Donald Trump throws a pen during a campaign rally in the south Bronx, May. 23, 2024, in New York (Yuki Iwamura / AP Photo) Republican presidential candidate former U.S. President Donald Trump throws a pen during a campaign rally in the south Bronx, May. 23, 2024, in New York (Yuki Iwamura / AP Photo)
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Republicans up and down the ballot are falling far behind Democrats in both fundraising and infrastructure, potentially stunting their ability to achieve total victory in the upcoming elections.

House and senate candidates, state parties and even the GOP presidential presumptive nominee himself, are all lacking key resources as they look to match a well-heeled Democratic Party.

Moreover, incessant infighting; legislative inaction; and mass defections have hollowed-out Trump’s party, thereby crippling Republicans as they try to mount an all-out-effort to retake control of Washington and state capitols across the nation.

Fundraising numbers from the most recent quarter are in and for the first time this election cycle, Donald Trump outraised President Joe Biden. The Trump campaign took in more than US$75 million compared to the incumbent’s US$50 million.

Nevertheless, Biden’s campaign still has nearly four times more cash-on-hand than Trump. Election finance reports show Biden and Democratic committees with US$193 million in the bank versus only US$49 million for the ex-president.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks at the Washoe Democratic Party Office in Reno, Nev., March 19, 2024 (Jacquelyn Martin / AP Photo)

Looking beyond the White House, though Democrats face steep electoral odds as they attempt to hold their slim majority in the U.S. senate, fundraising numbers tell a very different story. In every senate battleground state, the Democratic candidate is significantly out-raising their Republican opponent.

In fact, in races where the Republican primary has not happened, Democratic candidates are outraising the entire GOP primary field combined. To date, presumptive Democratic candidates have raised a cumulative US$181 million as Republicans have managed to bring in only US$63 million, or only 34% of what Democrats have raised.

Moreover, many of the Republican candidates are primarily self-financing their campaigns and when those numbers are removed, GOP candidates have brought in just 22% of what Democrats have raised.

One lone bright spot, the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) outraised the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) through the first quarter. The NRSC brought in US$102 million compared to its opponents’ US$94 million. Still, the DCSS had more cash on hand, with US$31.9 million compared to US$24.8 million for the NRSC.

In the lower chamber, the money race favours Democrats, even though they are in the minority and do not set the legislative agenda. Democratic incumbents, nominees and frontrunners in highly competitive House districts raised an average of US$970,000 in the first three months of this year.

Republican incumbents and candidates raised, on average, just over US$610,000 during the same period. House Republicans do, however, maintain an average US$200,000 cash-on-hand advantage over Democrats as they feverishly compete to maintain their control of the lower chamber.

Republicans leaving Congress

Equally troubling for Republicans, beyond the paltry fundraising, is the mass exodus of Republicans fleeing Congress. Already, 18 GOP House lawmakers have resigned or announced their retirement from Congress. Speaker Mike Johnson’s two-seat majority is the slimmest (218-216) of any party in decades. The departure of committee chairs, GOP party leadership and other senior lawmakers has exacerbated the party’s fundraising challenges, as well as emboldened the far-right wing of the party.

As a result, unifying the caucus behind legislation has been much more challenging and this Congress is now on track to becoming one of the least functional sessions ever.

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, followed by Majority Leader Steve Scalise, departs a news conference following a Republican strategy session at the Capitol in Washington, May 22, 2024 (J. Scott Applewhite / AP Photo)

GOP dysfunction and paralysis has not been limited to just national operations. State parties are suffering the exact same fate. Through the course of 2023, state Republican parties brought in US$49 million while Democratic state operations collected more than double that with just over US$105 million.

Battleground states including Michigan, Florida, and Arizona Republican operations have borne the brunt as internal feuds became public and, in the case of Florida, a scandalous criminal investigation brought down the party chair who has since resigned.

Battle for Florida

Sensing an opportunity, the Biden campaign has already begun making investments in an effort to put Florida in the win column. The Sunshine State has not gone blue in a presidential election since Barack Obama won there in 2012.

Going beyond the fundraising numbers, the Biden campaign is also prioritizing grassroots engagement. To date, the president’s re-election team has opened 133 field offices across the country. Many of these offices are in the key battleground states of Michigan (30); Pennsylvania (24); and Wisconsin (44). The Biden team has also hired more than 350 new political staffers to work out of these offices.

By comparison, Trump’s RNC has yet to open any offices in any key battleground states. According to Michigan Republican Party Chairman Pete Hoekstra, the national committee has not transferred any money to the state party to help bolster its efforts heading into the general election.

Trump’s recent successful fundraising quarter is certainly momentum the former reality star can build upon. However, the ex-president’s persistent and mounting legal entanglements are not going away. A portion of every dollar raised via national fundraising entities goes towards Trump’s ongoing legal woes.

Fighting to win back the White House, all the while battling to stay out of prison, is revealing itself to be a costly proposition for the presidential candidate and his entire party. Moreover, nonstop intra-party feuds only continue to propel Democrats, all the while debilitating Republican chances in the fall.

Nevertheless, Biden’s anemic polling numbers and continued struggles over the ongoing conflict in Gaza gives the GOP an opening. Yet, the president’s party’s massive fundraising hauls and ground operations have buttressed the party against a chaotic and flailing GOP. Now, it is the left that is within striking distance of winning the trifecta (White House, Senate, and House of Representatives) in November.

Money and messaging certainly fuel political races and right now, Republicans are running dangerously low on both. There is time to turn it around before voters really start to tune in.

Yet, if courtroom drama, infighting and chaos remains the GOP’s denouement through the summer, money will not be the issue. Self sabotage will.

Eric Ham is a bestselling author and former congressional staffer in the U.S. Congress. He served as a contributor to TheHill.com and The Washington Diplomat. He resides in Washington, DC.

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