And then there were four.
The 2024 Republican presidential primary field is thinning. After North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum dropped out of the race this week, only former President Donald Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. (and United Nations Ambassador) Nikki Haley, and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy remain.
One reason the list of candidates is getting shorter is because it is becoming clear which candidates have the money and the enthusiasm to continue — and which do not. This week we will look at the Election 2024 fundraising game and key metrics gauging voter enthusiasm and compare those numbers to what we saw four years ago – the last time there was a race for the White House.
Who Is Winning The 2024 Fundraising Race?
The most recent comprehensive overview voters get of the presidential money race comes from the candidates’ third quarter Federal Election Commission (FEC) reports. At that point, according to Statista, former President Trump had raised more than $60 million since starting his campaign in the latter part of 2022. That number is higher than the amount raised by President Joe Biden ($56.8 million), but the current president did not officially launch his campaign until about six months after his former (and, perhaps, future) rival did.
Former President Trump also is winning the GOP money race. After the third quarter, he had raised nearly double what Gov. DeSantis had and three times more than Haley.
These numbers could look a lot different after the fourth quarter, however, especially for Haley.
Not only did Haley recently capture the endorsement of the influential and extensive Koch network, but other wealthy donors also seem to be lining up behind her — including some Democrats. Forbes reported yesterday that “billionaire LinkedIn co-founder and Democratic donor Reid Hoffman gave $250,000 to support [Haley] — joining a growing list of deep-pocketed donors ...” Forbes also noted that while JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon has not endorsed or donated to Haley, he “urged business leaders and ‘liberal Democrats’ last week to support Haley as ‘a choice on the Republican side that might be better than Trump.’”
Not to be outdone, President Biden this week also launched a fundraising blitz. According to Fox News, he is expected to raise $15 million over just the next few days as his campaign holds high-dollar events with artists like James Taylor and Hollywood moguls like Steven Spielberg and Shonda Rhimes.
The fundraising story is much more lopsided if we look at the two parties’ national committees, which play a large role in supporting their respective party’s eventual White House nominee.
In late November, The Hill reported that the “Democratic National Committee (DNC) far outperformed its Republican National Committee (RNC) counterpart in fundraising in October.” Indeed, FEC filings showed the DNC raised nearly $13.1 million in October while the RNC took in just $7.1 million. Additionally, the DNC had $17.7 million on hand at the end of October and just $238,000 in debt. The RNC, meanwhile, had $9.1 million on hand and was $2.9 million in debt.
So – what might the fundraising tally tell us about what to expect next November?
Flashback: What Did Fundraising Numbers Look Like In Late 2019?
The world looked a lot different in December 2019 — and not only because most of us had not yet heard of COVID-19.
At this point in 2019, Donald Trump was the incumbent president. His campaign, along with the RNC, had raised $125 million by the end of the third quarter of that year. At the time, New York magazine said, “To put that into perspective, Trump’s 2016 campaign committee and associated PACs raised a little less than $450 million for the [entire] 2016 race” and “Trump’s totals after the third quarter are more than double what President Obama and the Democratic Party had this time in 2011.”
Who was then-President Trump’s chief rival in the fundraising game?
That would have been Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). In October 2019, CNN reported that Sen. Sanders led “all Democratic candidates in fundraising, with more than $33 million cash on hand as of September 30.” Sen. Sanders also had just had “the best quarter of any 2020 presidential candidate this cycle, raking in nearly $25.3 million dollars from July through September.”
The Democrats’ eventual nominee (and the future presidential race winner) Joe Biden had raised a mere $15 million in the third quarter of 2019, a figure that was less than his current U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who was still in the race at that point. Buttigieg had raised $19.1 million in the third quarter of 2019. Then-Sen. Kamala Harris (now vice president) raised $11.6 million from July to September 2019.
Still, as CNBC noted, at that point Joe Biden was holding a narrow lead in the presidential primary polls, and his campaign was optimistic. “The question any campaign faces at this point is whether or not you have the resources to compete in early states and sustain your efforts beyond,” his campaign manager Greg Schultz said in a statement to CNBC. “Our campaign unequivocally does and builds on our strength each week.”
In other words: Because Sen. Sanders is still in Congress and not in the Oval Office, no one should yet completely count out former President Trump’s GOP challengers.
And what about the national party committees? What did DNC and RNC fundraising numbers look like in late 2019?
According to Ballotpedia, in November 2019, the RNC had more than $61 million cash on hand — six times the cash on hand it has today — and the DNC had almost $44 million cash on hand, more than twice what it has today.
This data is telling, but as we have said before (and as this history shows), it takes more than money to win a race. Voter enthusiasm matters too.
Is Voter Enthusiasm For 2024 Really Waning?
Voter enthusiasm measures how likely a person is to head to the polls on Election Day. If members of either party are agnostic about their candidate, they are, of course, less likely to battle snow, rain, and wind (or wildfires) to get there.
As has been documented in several recent polls, Republicans are not all that excited to vote for Donald Trump again while Democrats are lukewarm about the current commander in chief. In fact, according to a Voice of America (VOA) report this week, support for President Biden among key Democratic constituencies is waning. Specifically, VOA reported, “A New York Times/Siena Poll released in November found that 22 percent of Black voters and 42 percent of Hispanic voters in six key battleground states would choose Trump over Biden in 2024.”
And it’s not just these groups that are less excited to vote in 2024.
A recent Quinnipiac University poll found 48 percent of voters say they are more motivated to vote than in past presidential elections. Nine percent say they are less motivated and 42 percent say their motivation level is about the same as in past years. Quinnipiac found Republicans are the most excited to vote. Fifty-eight percent said they are eager to get to the polls while just 47 percent of Democrats and 45 percent of Independents said the same.
Contrast that with a Gallup survey from November 2019. At that point, Gallup reported, “Roughly two in three Americans (64 percent) say they are ‘more enthusiastic’ about voting compared with previous elections, while 28 percent are ‘less enthusiastic’ and six percent say they currently have the same level of enthusiasm as they have in the past.” In November 2019, members of both parties were equally eager to vote. Gallup found two in three Republicans (66 percent) and Democrats (65 percent) said they were more excited about voting in 2020 than they had been in previous elections.
The VOA also had other bad news for the Biden campaign. According to Tufts University, next year Gen Z alone will make up more than 40 million potential voters, or, nearly one-fifth of the U.S. electorate.
Young voters will be incredibly important next year. Unfortunately, “Enthusiasm is also waning among young voters.” Specifically, according to a poll by the Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School, only 49 percent of those ages 18-29 say they ‘definitely’ plan to vote in 2024, down from 57 percent who said so in 2019. “The sharpest decline was among younger Black and Hispanic Americans,” VOA noted.
AXIOS dove deeper into those Harvard numbers yesterday morning. It found the poll also showed young voters trust former President Trump more than current President Biden on the Israel-Hamas war and crime and public safety. President Biden won on climate change, the war in Ukraine, and gun violence.
Finally, AXIOS noted that while President Biden holds an 11-point polling lead over former President Trump among voters under 30 years of age, when potential independent candidates are entered into the mix, that lead closes significantly. Specifically, in a four-way matchup, President Biden would take 29 percent of the young persons’ vote to former President Trump’s 25 percent. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. would take 10 percent and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) would take two percent. The rest of the people polled said they did not yet know who they will support.
That poll left out another potential third-party candidate: former U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, a Republican and the daughter of the former Vice President Dick Cheney. Cheney is out with a new book that is a scathing rebuke of the current GOP and is, reportedly, considering a run for the White House as an independent. Her entry into the race would almost certainly siphon votes from whomever the Republican nominee is.
Money? Enthusiasm? No candidate seems to have an edge right now and, as we saw in 2020, things can change radically in the first few months of an election year.