Trump’s a notorious skinflint and he sees the money he’s grifting from Republican donors as a basically one-way street. It’s his money, not the party’s money. He’s sucked tens of millions of dollars out of the election cycle and has been ultra-miserly about it, spending next to nothing on behalf of the shitty candidates he’s saddled the GOP with. McConnell, among other Republicans, is furious— and gingerly asking Trump to loosen the purse strings.
This morning, Burgess Everett and Meridith McGraw reported that McConnell has been “advising Trump-backed candidates and senators with good relationships with the 45th president to prod him to transfer millions of dollars from his leadership PAC to super PACs supporting Trump’s favored candidates, according to two people familiar with McConnell’s entreaty. Trump has repeatedly trashed McConnell over the past 18 months, including calling for his ouster as GOP leader. But the two have a shared goal of turning the Senate red.”
Trump has around $100 million in his SuperPAC and hasbn’t shown an eagerness to part with it for the candidates he fosited on the cash-strapped party, from Mehmet Oz (PA), Blake Masters (AZ), JD Vance (OH), Herschel Walker (GA) to Adam Laxalt (NV), Ted Budd (NC) and Tiffany Smiley (WA), all of whom are in danger of losing.
As Republicans openly bemoan Democrats’ money edge across the Senate map, McConnell allies hope Trump will see his candidates’ races as referenda on his own brand— that a win could prove he’s still a kingmaker, and a loss will stain his political record. Many Trump-backed Republican candidates, like J.D. Vance in Ohio and Blake Masters in Arizona, are facing serious money woes compared to their Democratic opponents.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who frequently talks Senate politics with Trump, said that Trump’s PAC has “resources. A lot of Trump candidates need help, like Blake Masters. My argument would be: ‘If the people you endorsed do well, you do well.’”
Trump “should invest to win, and not just to finish second or tied. I think he ought to do it. I really do. I think he ought to get generous,” said Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND). “One thing Donald Trump doesn’t like to do is lose.”
Graham said he is planning to make a larger push with Trump closer to the election. But there’s plenty of urgency now. The McConnell-linked Senate Leadership Fund super PAC recently slashed $8 million in ads for Masters in Arizona, leaving a huge spending gulf.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) said Masters will “probably not” be able to win without more assistance.
“He can win that race, and I think he will in the end, but I do think he’s gonna need some more help,” said Hawley, who has not personally asked Trump to get more involved.
The effort to get Trump to unlock his PAC stash is yet another sign of his seismic effect on the Republican Party. He is sucking up a massive portion of GOP donations (including a sizable chunk of the grassroots dollars) in a midterm election year. That, in turn, has given him significant sway while out of office— even after many Senate Republicans, including McConnell, soured on Trump after the insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6.
One Republican senator, granted anonymity to speak candidly about the situation, doubted that Trump would loosen his purse strings even for his own candidates given the long-running tensions between him and Senate Republicans— a sentiment echoed in part by some operatives close to the former president.
“It’s not Trump’s job to elect a Senate majority,” said one Trump world adviser.
…[I]n the last lap of the campaign, Trump is expected to hold a rally almost every other week, according to a person familiar with planning. His next appearance is slated for Youngstown, Ohio, with GOP Senate nominee Vance as a special guest, and he just held a rally for Pennsylvania’s GOP Senate nominee Mehmet Oz.
“President Trump has been completely invested in seeing his endorsed candidates win, which has already fueled his 98% win record so far this cycle. Through the power of his endorsement and his massive MAGA rallies, President Trump is able to infuse campaigns with media attention, volunteers, and donors in a way that has never been seen before in American politics,” said Trump spokesperson Taylor Budowich.
In addition to Oz, Vance and Masters, Trump has backed Herschel Walker in Georgia and Rep. Ted Budd in North Carolina. Republicans need to net only one seat to take Senate control in November. But the nearness of that goal doesn’t necessarily mean Trump is going to spend more for his party’s push.
“He’s a penny pincher. He’s not going to spend money on people when he can spend money on himself. In lieu of spending money, he can do events for you,” said one GOP strategist working on House and Senate races. “Everyone thought that, by Labor Day, he would be loosening up the purse strings a bit and money would be flowing in.”
New ad reservations at this point in the cycle are more costly than earlier in the year, meaning any big new investments won’t go as far as they might have months or weeks ago. What’s more, candidates themselves get better ad rates, giving Democratic senators like Mark Kelly of Arizona and Raphael Warnock of Georgia an edge.
Since the start of this election cycle, Trump’s Save America PAC has raised more than $103 million and spent approximately $36 million. It has $99 million left in the bank after beginning the year with roughly $31 million on hand. It has supported other Republicans too. Save America has dashed off $5,000 checks to the GOP’s most vulnerable Senate candidates— the maximum it’s allowed— the PAC has also written $5,000 checks to more than 100 other Republicans running for federal office, including lawmakers in safe seats like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Jim Banks of Indiana, and Republicans running for state offices.
Most of Save America’s political spending— which accounts for just over 30 percent of its total spending since last year— has gone to outside political groups, mostly during GOP primary season. That includes $1 million to a pro-Oz super PAC, $1 million to the right-leaning Our American Century super PAC, $500,000 to a super PAC backing Rep. Liz Cheney’s (R-WY) primary opponent, over $4 million to various groups in Georgia opposing GOP Gov. Brian Kemp and $200,000 to a group in Arizona backing Trump’s endorsees there.
Save America has also given $150,000 in total to several RNC accounts, including its legal fund, convention fund and general fund.
Some allies say those data points already demonstrate Trump’s largesse— and he’s under no obligation to do more.
“I don’t buy this spin that he has some moral obligation to spend millions on candidates. Now with that said, I do think it would be a politically smart move for him to spend big. But he doesn’t owe it to these people,” said the aforementioned Trump world adviser. “There is a blame game happening between Rick Scott and McConnell … a game of ‘cover your ass,’ because no one wants the blame if Republicans do indeed underperform.”
These are the cash-on-hand figures as of the end of the last quarter in all the Senate battleground states:
Mark Kelly (D)- $24,788,709
Blake Masters (R)- $1,557,206
Raphael Masters (D)- $22,219,642
Herschel Walker (R)- $6,795,043
Catherine Cortez Masto (D)- $9,850,372
Adam Laxalt (R)- $2,147,364
Maggie Hassan (D)- $7,345,521
Don Bolduc (R)- $83,903
Cheri Beasley (D)- $4,821,927
Ted Budd (R)- $1,783,167
Tim Ryan (D)- $3,567,175
J.D. Vance (R)- $628,611
John Fetterman (D)- $5,498,552
Mehmet Oz (R)- $1,126,623
Ron Johnson (R)- $2,023,525
Mandela Barnes (D)- $990,496