Politics

Chipping in? Trump may put up his own cash on reelection

President Donald Trump turns after speaking to reporters before boarding Air Force One for a trip to Jupiter, Fla., to speak about the environment, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. He will also travel to a campaign rally in North Carolina. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is putting out the word that he is considering spending as much as $100 million of his own fortune on his reelection effort as campaign officials try to buck up key supporters and donors amid daunting polling numbers and other bad news.

Trump said Tuesday that he’s prepared to use his own money and spend “whatever it takes” to win a second term in the White House, but he sidestepped just how much of his own cash he’s willing to invest.

“If I have to, I would,” Trump said of spending his own money. Speaking to reporters before departing for the battleground states of Florida and North Carolina, he added, “We have much more money than we had last time going into the last two months. But if we needed any more, I’d put it up.”

Dan Eberhart, a prominent Republican donor, said that two senior campaign officials told him in recent days that Trump was considering a personal investment in the campaign of as much as $100 million.

Eberhart said the campaign is trying to create “a little excitement” among top donors and prominent supporters as polls have shown Trump consistently trailing Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden nationally and in some battleground states. Trump also is grappling with the political fallout from the mounting number of coronavirus deaths and the pandemic’s economic toll.

Trump spent more than $60 million of his own money on his 2016 run for the White House. This time, he began raising campaign funds almost immediately after his inauguration and built an enormous war chest early on that advisers believed put him at a distinct advantage over the Democratic nominee.

Eberhart said he was skeptical that Trump will spend $100 million of his own money and questioned whether money was significantly hampering the president’s campaign. Bloomberg News was first to report that Trump was weighing the significant personal investment in the campaign.

“He didn’t do it before, why would he do it now?” Eberhart said. He added, “This is about telling supporters: Don’t pay attention to the polls. Don’t pay attention to the media. We’re going to win this thing.”

Trump’s reelection effort, including the Republican National Committee, has spent more than $800 million so far, while Biden and the Democratic National Committee have spent about $414 million through July, according to campaign spending reports. The Trump campaign has not released its fundraising totals from August, a significant delay that raises questions coming on the heels of the Biden team announcing an eye-popping $364 million take for the month.

In the days following the last month’s Republican Nation Convention, Trump made the unusual move of pulling most of his advertising from TV, ceding the airwaves to Biden.

During August, Biden doubled what Trump spent on ads, dropping about $80 million in states that include battlegrounds such as Wisconsin, Florida, Pennsylvania and Michigan, according to data from the ad tracking firm Kantar/CMAG.

Bill Stepien, Trump’s campaign manager, was pressed by reporters on a campaign conference call Tuesday about the possible cash shortfall experienced by the president’s team.

“If money was the only factor determining winners and losers in politics,” he said, “then Jeb Bush would have been the nominee in 2016 and we’d have a second President Clinton.”

Stepien acknowledged that he was “carefully managing the budget.” He echoed the president in saying that the Trump campaign, which was outspent in 2016, has more resources to use between now and Election Day than it did four years ago.

He also pointed to the campaign’s early expenditures as paying off, particularly on field staff in battleground states and said that Biden could not replicate that in the little time left until Election Day.

Stepien also said the team’s advertising would be “nimble,” and include a TV spree in early voting states as well an urban radio campaign in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida that would contrast Trump’s record for Black voters with Biden’s, a move aimed just as much at suburban white listeners.

Trump also took to Twitter on Tuesday to play down concerns about having enough money to compete in the home stretch of the campaign.

“Because of the China Virus, my Campaign, which has raised a lot of money, was forced to spend in order to counter the Fake News reporting about the way we handled it (China Ban, etc.). We did, and are doing, a GREAT job, and have a lot of money left over, much more than 2016,” Trump tweeted.

Still, Trump added in his comments to reporters that he was prepared to spend his own cash to help his cause.

“Whatever it takes,” said Trump. “We have to win.”

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Madhani reported from Chicago and Lemire from New York.

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Associated Press writer Brian Slodysko contributed to this report.

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