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Trump vows to overcome $40 million fundraising gap with Clinton by matching contributions

The summer presidential campaign kicked off with a striking fundraising gap between the two presumptive nominees -- not only does Hillary Clinton lead Donald Trump in national polls, but she has raised over $40 million more. For a closer look at Trump’s finances and what they could mean for his chances in November, Gwen Ifill talks to Matea Gold of The Washington Post and Susan Page of USA Today.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    The summertime phase of the presidential campaign got underway with news of a striking fundraising gap between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

  • HILLARY CLINTON (D), Democratic Presidential Nominee:

    He’s written a lot of books about his business. They all seem to end at chapter 11.

    (LAUGHTER)

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Democrat Hillary Clinton returned to the swing state of Ohio today to take aim at Donald Trump’s business record and economic experience.

  • HILLARY CLINTON:

    You might think that, because he has spent his life as a businessman, he’d be better prepared to handle the economy. Well, it turns out he’s dangerous there too. Just like he shouldn’t have his finger on the button, he shouldn’t have his hands on our economy.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Recent polls show Clinton leading Trump nationally, but the divide is even bigger when it comes to money, raised and spent. May fund-raising reports released yesterday tell the tale.

    Clinton ended the month with $42 million in cash on hand. By contrast, the Trump campaign reported it has $1.3 million. That’s less than primary candidates Ted Cruz, at $6.8 million, and Ben Carson, at $1.7 million. They dropped out months ago.

    Even Democrat Bernie Sanders, who has not formally ended his campaign, still had $9.2 million at the end of last month. Trump said he is unconcerned about the gap and will raise more this month. He spoke by phone on this morning’s “Today Show.”

  • DONALD TRUMP (R), Republican Presidential Nominee:

    What I will do is just what I did in the primaries. I spent $55 million of own money to win the primaries, 55. Now, that’s a lot of money, I mean, by even any standard. I have a lot of cash, and I may do it again in the general election.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    The Trump campaign put out its very first fundraising e-mail today with a pledge from the candidate to personally match contributions up to $2 million over the next 48 hours.

    On the campaign trail, it was business as usual. Trump met with evangelical leaders meeting in Manhattan. In video posted from the private session, he raised questions about Clinton’s Christianity, and he cautioned attendees that they should be careful how they decide who to pray for.

  • DONALD TRUMP:

    We can’t again be, again, politically correct and say we pray for all of our leaders, because all of your leaders are selling Christianity down the tubes, selling the evangelicals down the tubes, and it’s a very, very — it’s a very, very bad thing that’s happening now.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Trump also said he would continue his criticism of Clinton with a major speech also in New York tomorrow.

    For more on the growing campaign divide on money and ideology as the outlines of the general election take shape, we turn to Matea Gold, who covers campaign finance for “The Washington Post,” and USA Today Washington bureau chief Susan Page.

    Matea, Donald Trump says he’s just being lean and mean. How much of that is even conceivable?

  • MATEA GOLD, The Washington Post:

    The problem here is it’s not just Trump that he’s raising money for. It’s the Republican Party as a whole, and in fact the entire GOP down-ticket ballot that’s relying on his fundraising to put money into the coffers of the RNC to finance a get-out-the-vote operation.

    I think Trump’s reaction to the fundraising report and the backlash was very telling this morning. He threatened to actually just self-fund and leave the party on its own if GOP leaders didn’t rally around him and help him bring in the funds. And that’s caused an incredible amount of alarm among Republican strategists today.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    And you have been covering campaign finance issues for a long — a while by now, Matea. How unprecedented is this, this gap?

  • MATEA GOLD:

    Well, Trump’s campaign is simply unprecedented. And we have not had a major party nominee self-finance in this way.

    And up until the primaries, it was less of a question about how much cash he had on hand, because he was putting substantial sums into his campaign, at least in the forms of loans every month. That changed in May, when he only fronted his campaign an additional $2.2 million, raised $3.1 million. This is the month where he effectively clinched the Republican nomination.

    Those figures are very, very small for summer heading into the key summer months.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    So when you clinch a nomination, the theory is that you unite the money and the money comes flowing it. But that doesn’t seem to have happened, at least not yet.

  • SUSAN PAGE, USA Today:

    Well, it doesn’t come in unless you ask for it.

    And one problem is that Donald Trump has not done the kind of meticulous fundraising that every other presidential candidate has done when they clinch of nomination. In fact, he hasn’t done — this is part of a piece. He hasn’t done the other things that conventional candidates have done since clinching the nomination.

    People look at this — Republicans look at this and say seven weeks in which he hasn’t broadened his message. He hasn’t built up the staff in key states, and he hasn’t raised the money that he will need in the campaign that continues.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Explain to people why — what this money goes for, because you could understand someone saying, oh, she’s just fat and happy. She doesn’t need this money. She’s being greedy.

    Instead, there’s actual things you pay for with this money.

  • SUSAN PAGE:

    Well, you pay for people, staffers who are going to walk around key states, identify your voters and turn them out on Election Day.

    You pay for TV ads. Hillary Clinton and her super PACs have now put on more than $23 million — more than $23 million worth of ads in eight battleground states, compared to zero spent on campaign ads by Donald Trump’s campaign. And that is setting an impression.

    These are mostly — there’s some positive ads. More of them are negative ads. They’re setting an impression of Donald Trump, and he is not responding to it. So, as the campaign goes on, that impression gets more and more set and it becomes harder and harder to change it if you wait.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Matea, let’s talk about Hillary Clinton’s $42 million. To the extent that he is not raising money, where is she raising money from?

  • MATEA GOLD:

    Well, last night in New York, Secretary Clinton had three high-dollar fundraising events in conjunction with the Democratic Party.

    This is a strategy she has actually been pursuing since last fall, when she formed the earlier and largest joint fundraising committee a presidential campaign has ever done with the party. That has been a very successful strategy for her, helping bring in not only small donations to her campaign, but much-needed large donations into the DNC, which was suffering from a long debt they were holding.

    So the DNC, while it has not raised as much money as the RNC this cycle, it’s getting a big boost from Clinton’s campaign. That is something that Trump is just starting to try to chip away at with the Republican Party.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    And it’s fair to say after — she raised more last night in three high-dollar events than he has on hand right now.

  • MATEA GOLD:

    I would imagine so.

    And she has tapped into a very active small-dollar donor base. Really, after getting a scare from Senator Sanders, who managed to really finance almost all his entire campaign with small online donations, Clinton’s campaign really upped up their efforts in that area, have brought in substantial amount of money online through small donations.

    That’s something that has Republican strategists scratching their head, wonder why Trump has not tried to do the same with his supporters, who clearly have the kind of fervent support for the candidate that could translate into a lot of money.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Well, that support is predicated, in part, Susan, on the fact that he’s a millionaire and has a lot of money and throughout the primary talked about how he was paying his own way.

    But a lot of that paying his own way were loans. Right? So, we know — there are two things we discovered, which is, he lent himself some of that money, and the other part is that a lot of the money that was spent went to Trump’s own companies.

  • SUSAN PAGE:

    That’s right, to his air — for the airplane, the Trump aircraft that he uses, toward the resorts that he owns, or his companies own, where he’s used them for news conferences and for rallies.

    So some of this money has gone back to him. Some of it, he’s loaned. He’s sent mixed messages on whether he’s willing to put a lot of money into a general election. And you see that…

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Isn’t that part of his appeal, that I’m a rich guy and I’m not going to reach in your pocket?

  • SUSAN PAGE:

    And I can’t be bought. I’m not going to…

  • GWEN IFILL:

    And I can’t be bought.

  • SUSAN PAGE:

    Yes. That’s right.

    Now, one thing that Republicans will say is that he hasn’t done things in the conventional way this far, and he’s gotten the nomination. It’s — I think it’s true that his core support remains behind him, and maybe if he appealed to them for small donations, maybe they would come through.

    But there is this sense of the clock ticking. We are just 20-some days away from the Republican Convention.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Matea, you talked about small dollars. What about the big dollars, the deep pockets of people like Charles Koch and the — who really helped Mitt Romney and have helped previous party nominees?

  • MATEA GOLD:

    Well, so it’s a really mixed picture.

    The Koch network, which is a very powerful organization which really runs its own sort of shadow political party, it’s completely focused on competitive Senate races right now and is staying out of the presidential race. There are some longtime veteran party fundraisers who had signed on and lent their name to the Trump fundraising effort with the RNC.

    However, I have been told that a lot of those people are sort of signed on in name only, and there are sort of limited amounts of impact that they’re able to have trying to get people signed up to bundle checks from their friends and family. So I think it’s really a mixed picture right now.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    So, you’re waiting to see what happens with the next campaign finance reports in June. That’s what he said today.

  • SUSAN PAGE:

    That’s right.

    And let’s see what happens in the polls, too, because one of the surprising things is, as terrible a time as Donald Trump has had the last couple of weeks, he has not — Hillary Clinton has only a small lead nationwide. And you had Quinnipiac polls coming out today that showed it basically tied up in Pennsylvania and Ohio, two key states.

    And this gives Republicans some hope that with the shakeup in the Trump organization, the departure of Corey Lewandowski as the campaign manager, maybe Trump is ready to make some of the changes that Republicans really believe he has to make if this is going to be a competitive race.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Susan Page of USA Today, and Matea Gold of The Washington Post, thank you both.

  • MATEA GOLD:

    Thank you.

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