Steve Rattner’s Morning Joe Charts: The Money Race Heats Up

The polling between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump may be neck and neck, but in another barometer of the contest – money-raising – it is not much of a contest. By almost every metric, Biden is outperforming Trump. Not to mention that Trump is using a significant portion of his donations to pay his legal bills.

Let’s start with February. In that month, the Biden campaign and the Democratic National Committee raised a total of $53 million, 70% more than the $31 million that the Republican counterparts raised. (That was similar to the gap in January fundraising.)

Last month continues a pattern of Biden outraising Trump. So far in this cycle, Biden and the Democrats have raised $248 million compared to just $168 million for the Republicans. Notwithstanding its slower fundraising, the Trump campaign has been outspending the Biden team, $125 million to $92 million.

That has contributed to a significant disparity in cash on hand. As of the end of February, the Democratic entities had $155 million of cash on hand, compared to just $48 million for the Republicans. That gap was caused partly by differences in the pace of spending but also by Trump’s liberal use of campaign contributions to pay his legal expenses.

What Trump does not disclose clearly is how donations to the campaign get shunted to his lawyers. Here’s how it works: The first $6,600 that a donor contributes to the Trump 47 Committee goes directly to the campaign, as what is known as “hard money.” The next $5,000 from a donor goes to Trump’s Save America PAC. Since Trump’s hush money indictment on March 30, 2023, that PAC has paid $47 million of Trump’s legal bills, virtually all the money that it has raised.

Donations above $11,600 go to the Republican National Committee and then to Republican state parties, up to a total maximum of $814,600. (Even more generous donors can give unlimited amounts to Super PACs.)

An interesting difference in this cycle is the breakdown of donations between large donors and small donors. On the small end, so far in 2024, Trump has been outperforming Biden, with $41 million raised, compared to $31 million for Biden. That is a significant reversal from the 2020 cycle, when Biden outperformed Trump among small donors and may reflect a greater enthusiasm of Trump’s base. On the other hand, Biden, who did better than Trump among larger donors in 2020, has increased his margin of superiority substantially among this group.

Putting that together, Biden’s share of contributions from donors giving more than $2,000 has increased to 35% in this cycle from 25% in 2020 and his share of funds from smaller contributors has decreased. Trump, on the other hand, has garnered 61% of his funds from small donors and just 9% from large donors, also presumably reflecting the economic status of his supporters.