Those complicated financial statements that presidential candidates are obligated to file with the Federal Elections Commission every month are usually dull reading for all but us most inveterate political buffs, and unless they contain some notorious name among the contributors or some fishy expenditure they typically get but a few column inches and a couple of ritual tsk-tsks about all the big money in politics, but this time around in this crazy election year there are enough angles apparent in the figures to keep the story going for at least a few days.
The latest filings indicate that presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton raised $19.7 million in the month of May, which is not bad but not so garishly good by recent standards to justify any more than the usual tsk-tsking about big money in politics, while presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump raised $3.1 million, which is undeniably awful by recent standards and yet unlikely to earn the self-described billionaire any plaudits for keeping big money out of his campaign. At the end of the month the Democrat had $42 million in cash on hand, which is pretty good by recent standards, while the Republican was reporting a paltry $1.3 million on hand, which is about what you’d expect for a House seat candidate in a flyover district and probably less than the monthly advertising budget of that Mack Weldon underwear outfit that lately has had intrusive ads popping up at every internet site we visit. The Republican Party and its “Super PACs” report a similarly large lagging behind their Democratic counterparts, and that gaping gap alone is enough to fuel at least a couple extra days of media coverage.
Trump and his so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supporters are already saying that the round-the-clock coverage his megawatt celebrity brings and his boisterous and violence-plagued rallies and the devastating insults of his widely-followed “tweets” will easily make up the difference, and after it sufficed to vanquish a promising field of 16 better-funded and far more qualified opponents in the primary races we can’t dismiss the possibility that they might once again be right. Still, the difference between $42 million and $1.3 million in cash on hand is is newsworthy, especially by Trump’s bottom-line way of looking at things, and it raises a lot of questions that Trump’s numerous opponents on both the left and what’s left of the erstwhile right are already asking.
Thus the Trump campaign will surely be on the defensive for a while, fending off questions that call into doubt all its grandiose promises, and while both the crazed left-wing Democrats and the last redoubts of old school conservatism are unleashing their resources they’ll have to hope that Trump’s phoned-in appearances on the Today Show and MSNBC’s obscure “Morning Joe” and the more obscure-yet Alex Jones’ “InfoWars” conspiracy channel radio can counter it. A few million dollars worth of air time on the popular reality shows that persuasively reminds voters about how the presumptive Republican nominee really did once mock a handicapped person for the amusement of his boisterous rally-goers will likely have some effect, and although a similar few million dollars could buy enough air time to persuasively remind all those reality-show viewers that the Democratic nominee has done countless things that were at least as disgusting it doesn’t seem likely to happen. Why not is hard for the the Trump campaign to explain.
The reality is that there are far more targeted swing state voters watching those reality shows than there are watching Trump’s phoned-in interviews on morning shows and afternoon cable fare and lunatic-fringe radio programs, and that the failure to financially make up the difference undermines many of the campaign’s claims. One is that the presumptive Republican nominee possesses 10 BILLION DOLLARS, with the capitalization always added, and that he would patriotically tithe a cool billion or so of it to Make America Great again, the capitalization once again added, so the latest FEC filing calls that into question. We were never swayed by the argument that influence-buying billionaires have so thoroughly corrupted the political system that we should only vote for self-funded candidates, the only one on offering being a self-described billionaire who openly boasts of all the influence-buying he’s done over his checkered career, and at this poorly funded moment it’s no more persuasive to anyone who’s been paying attention that 10 BILLION DOLLAR figure is not to be taken seriously. The most reliable sources estimate Trump possesses less than half of that amount, one author who claimed it was far less than a single billion wound up winning a prolonged libel suit, which included Trump’s sworn testimony that his estimation of his wealth depended on his daily feelings of self-regard, which range from yuge to very yuge, and by now it should be clear to even his so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supporters that he wouldn’t part with a tenth of it even if he did have 10 BILLION DOLLARS just to Make America Great Again.
Which calls into question whether he really is the organizational and economic and deal-making genius that earned him that apocryphal 10 BILLION DOLLARS and will surely Make America Great Again, and already the left is having fun with a hash-tagged “Trump So Broke” internet meme, which includes some admittedly funny insult comic shtick about how he can’t afford a decent haircut and how his next trophy wife will come from Mexico, and worse yet there’s the more dour reluctance of what’s left of erstwhile conservatism to support his candidacy. As much as a majority of the Republican is still hoping for another nominee, the presumptive nominee is still sneering that he’ll do fine without them, yet he’s apparently depending on the hated party “establishment” that he and his so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supporters have vowed to burn down for a field operation and some respite from the paid-media blitz, and there’s still a slight chance that the inevitably “establishment” delegates will make another choice.
For now we’ll continue to hope so, because that presumptive Democratic nominee is so indisputably awful that a just few million more from the party’s rank-and-file and billionaire donors might just prove effective on behalf of someone other than Trump.
— Bud Norman