As the November election nears, big donors are stepping up their investments in presidential candidates. However, money is not the only requirement for success, American political observers say, outlining a number of other crucial factors at play in the 2020 election race.
The campaign of Democratic presumptive nominee Joseph Biden has won support from a record 94 billionaire donors and their spouses, according to Forbes. For comparison’s sake, 90 large donors have donated to the Trump campaign since it started fundraising in 2017.
Biden gained support from 27 new billionaires in March alone, while Trump received backing from just 14 the same month. However, a successful campaign is not just about money, American observers say: even though Hillary Clinton raised roughly $1.2 billion versus $646.8 million collected by Trump during the 2015-2016 election cycle it did not help her win the race.
Dems & Republicans on Spending Spree
Although Biden raised more money than Trump in March 2020, the incumbent president is still leading by millions, says Anna Massoglia, a researcher at the Center for Responsive Politics, citing OpenSecret.org website.
“OpenSecrets reported that Biden raised nearly $46 million in March, the most he’s raised in a single month this cycle”, she says. “He ended the month with $26.4 million in cash on hand. Biden has raised more than $132 million toward his White House bid. Trump’s March haul of $13.6 million brought his fundraising total to $246 million”.
However, candidate’s campaign committees are only one portion of the money flowing into the 2020 election, the researcher highlights, referring to super PACs and “dark money” groups.
In March 2020, Democratic super PACs vowed to invest millions of dollars in ads targeting Donald Trump and his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to CNN. For its part, The Washington Free Beacon revealed that it was just a small part of funds allocated by rich liberal donors to fight against the Trump campaign.
“Liberal groups with ties to the Democratic Party have spent millions of dollars worth of ads attacking President Trump’s response to coronavirus ahead of the 2020 presidential election”, Massoglia stresses. “Democratic super PAC American Bridge has shelled out almost $6.3 million on ads attacking Trump’s handling of coronavirus, liberal super PAC Pacronym launched a $2.5 million digital ad campaign on it, and Democratic super PAC Priorities USA Action has spent more than $6 million on a series of negative ads attacking Trump on his response to the coronavirus pandemic”.
Republican super PACs are not sitting on their thumbs either: according to the researcher, America First Action “recently unveiled its first independent expenditures in the 2020 presidential election attacking presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden on his response to the coronavirus pandemic”. For its part, another influential super PAC, American Crossroads, has received “a considerable amount of money from a small pool of billionaire megadonors” and thrown its weight behind Trump, she adds.
Spending More Money Doesn’t Necessarily Produce a Win
“How much money either Biden or Trump will receive is hard to say”, opines Timothy Hagle, a political science professor at the University of Iowa. “That’s particularly the case so far given the restrictions on campaigning due to the pandemic”.
As for donors, some will give money to this or that campaign depending on their political sympathies and affiliations, he notes, adding that yet another factor can be “the political climate in the geographic area in which a person or company is located”: “You can think of areas dominated by liberals where a conservative donation might be harmful and vice versa”, Hagle remarks.
“Of course, it also depends on the particular candidates in a race”, the professor continues. “You specifically mention the presidential campaign between Biden (we assume) and Trump. The objections some Republicans have to Trump are well known and some who didn’t support him in 2016 might not in 2020. On the other hand, some on the more progressive left might feel that Biden isn’t progressive enough and won’t support him. To some extent we saw this from some on the left who didn’t support Clinton in 2016″.
At the same, one should bear in mind that having and spending more money does not always produce a win, the academic points out. While “more money gives a candidate a chance to get his or her message out to the voters”, it is another matter whether this message will be actually accepted, he notes.
The Fall Campaign: Negative, Expensive & Costly
“Elections for US president are typically about four elements. Money. Organisation. Resources. And Endorsements. Call this M-O-R-E”, elaborates David McCuan, a political science professor at Sonoma State University. “However, the 2016 election results upended that model and the COVID-19 pandemic has obliterated that traditional model. The whole dynamic around 2020 is different now”.
He does not argue that money matters, but money alone is not a sufficient condition for success, according to the political scientist.
As for resources accumulated by the Biden campaign, one should not underestimate “the power of incumbency”, McCuan remarks.
“The power of the Presidency is such that Donald Trump and his associated campaign committees will have plenty of dollars and resources”, he points out.
What is going on right now, “at this early and unusual stage amidst a global pandemic”, is a “high-stakes signalling game” which indicates who gives money and who supports whom; however, the most important phase will start closer to the elections, according to the professor.
“As the November election heats up, smart corporate donors will often hedge their bets giving to both sides or to affiliated interests”, he says. “No one wants to be caught on the outside looking in by having supported the losing side. This makes timing of contributions key. One thing we pay attention to is the flow and movement of dollars later in the campaign period, especially post-Labor Day”.
The political analyst foresees that “the fall campaign is shaping up to be negative, expensive, and costly at several levels”: “No interests – corporate or otherwise – want to sit out this critical election as they devise who and what to support at this juncture”, he opines.