WASHINGTON — Donald Trump acknowledged Tuesday that he is struggling to rally fellow Republicans as new fundraising reports show him badly lagging Hillary Clinton in campaign cash.
Trump’s campaign started June with $1.3 million on hand, compared with $42 million for Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee. Trump’s dismal fundraising numbers were released hours after the Republican candidate fired campaign manager Corey Lewandowski in an attempt to restart his struggling White House bid.
“I’m not looking to spend a billion dollars. I need support from the Republicans,” Trump said on the Fox News Channel. “In some respects I get more support from the Democrats than the Republicans.”
He said the Republican National Committee and its chairman, Reince Priebus, “have been terrific,” but “it would be nice to have full verbal support from people in office.”
Trump continues to face criticism from Republican leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Although both have endorsed him, they have condemned Trump’s renewed call to impose a temporary ban on foreign Muslims entering the country.
Trump’s decision to fire Lewandowski less than a month before the Republican convention sent a powerful signal that the billionaire businessman recognizes the increasingly dire state of his presidential campaign. Many in his party feel he has squandered the precious weeks since locking up the nomination and has allowed Clinton to gain ground despite her longer primary fight.
The fundraising reports showed donors gave his campaign about $3 million in May, even though he enjoyed presumptive nominee status for almost the entire month. By contrast, Clinton, who spent all of last month fending off her primary rival, Bernie Sanders, raised $26 million.
Trump said he will not be spending as much as Clinton.
“We’re going to be running a little bit different campaign,” he told Fox News Channel. “We want to keep it lean. I’m not looking to spend all this money. She’s going to spend more than $1 billion.”
On NBC’s “Today,” Trump said he may have to tap more into his own funds. “If it gets to a point, I’ll do what I did in the primaries. I spent $55 million in the primaries. I may do it again in the general election, but it would be nice to have some help from the party,” he said.
Aides also hope Lewandowski’s departure will bring an end to the infighting that has plagued the campaign since Trump hired strategist Paul Manafort in March to help secure delegates ahead of the convention. Since then, the campaign’s rival factions have been jockeying for power, slowing hiring and other decision-making. Manafort, who has long advocated a more scripted approach backed by a larger and more professional campaign apparatus, will be taking full control.
In a conference call with top aides following Lewandowski’s firing, Manafort signalled a rapid expansion would be coming soon.
“The campaign’s going to pick up the speed,” senior adviser Barry Bennett said.
But even with Lewandowski’s departure, Trump faces an uphill climb. The campaign is woefully understaffed compared to Clinton’s, and Trump has so far shown little appetite for investing in even the basic building blocks of a modern-day White House campaign.
His communications team currently consists of a single spokeswoman and he has just about 30 paid staff deployed to battleground states across the country. Clinton, in contrast, has had a veritable campaign army mobilized for months, backed by millions of dollars in battleground-state television advertising. Trump has yet to reserve any ad time.
Instead, he is outsourcing even basic campaign functions to the Republican National Committee — an untested strategy that comes with risks, given the shaky support he has received from Republican leaders.
Trump has also squandered precious time campaigning in states unlikely to determine the election. And this week, he’ll take a trip to Scotland to promote the renovation of one of his golf courses.
Trump has also been slow to embrace an aggressive plan to raise the hundreds of millions of dollars needed to fund both his campaign and the RNC’s ground game — frustrating donors.
New fundraising reports covering the first few weeks after Trump became the presumptive nominee show the RNC raised $13 million in May — about what it raised in April, before his rivals left the race. By comparison, four years earlier, GOP nominee Mitt Romney helped the RNC bring in $34 million.
Veteran GOP fundraiser Fred Malek said he doubted Lewandowski’s departure would have much impact on the campaign’s fund raising and said the real change has to come from Trump himself.
“If it signals a change in his style and approach, it can only be positive. But I feel he needs to do more. And I feel that, no matter what he does on the fundraising front, he’s going to be at a huge financial disadvantage,” he said, explaining that it typically takes candidates two years to build fundraising operations.