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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Friday, July 24, 2020

COVID and Trump Campaign Woes

In Defying the Odds, we discuss campaign finance and campaign technology.

Maggie Haberman, Patricia Mazzei and Annie Karni at NYT:
Bowing to threats posed by the coronavirus, President Trump reversed course on Thursday and canceled the portion of the Republican National Convention to be held in Jacksonville, Fla., just weeks after he moved the event from North Carolina because state officials wanted the party to take health precautions there.
The surprise announcement threw one of the tent-pole moments of Mr. Trump’s re-election effort into limbo, with the president describing in vague terms how the Republicans would hold his renomination in North Carolina and do “other things with tele-rallies and online.” It was an ill-defined sketch of an August week that Mr. Trump once envisioned drawing huge crowds and energizing his struggling bid for a second term.
While Mr. Trump has spent weeks urging Florida and other states to reopen their economies and return to life as normal, virus cases have surged in Jacksonville and across the region. The president had insisted on moving ahead with the event until Thursday, talking up the big party that Republicans would hold in Jacksonville even with the dangers of large gatherings and some G.O.P. leaders saying they would not attend.
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The Jacksonville convention host committee had about $6 million in various accounts, and had spent some of that money already. It had $20 million in commitments that were still firm on Tuesday, according to two officials involved in the fund-raising. On Thursday, they were still assessing whether donors would be able to get their money back but assumed they would not be able to do so in full.
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But as cases surged, voters, donors and elected officials from both parties expressed skepticism about holding a big gathering just several weeks away. A Quinnipiac University poll released on Thursday showed that 62 percent of the state’s voters thought the convention would be unsafe to hold. The poll also showed Mr. Biden leading Mr. Trump by 13 percentage points in Florida; in a Quinnipiac poll in April, Mr. Biden had a four-point lead.
Alex Isenstadt at Politico:
News that Kimberly Guilfoyle contracted the coronavirus had barely surfaced on July 3 before she hopped on a private flight from Mount Rushmore back to New York with her boyfriend, Donald Trump, Jr.

Left behind in her wake after President Donald Trump’s pre-Independence Day address were more than a half-dozen junior campaign staffers whom Guilfoyle oversees as the president’s national finance chair. The aides, who’d been in proximity to Guilfoyle, were forced to quarantine in their Rapid City, S.D., hotel rooms for three days and barred from face-to-face contact with colleagues as they pleaded with the campaign to get them home.
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The episode was the latest example of upheaval within the fundraising unit that Guilfoyle oversees, which is primarily responsible for cultivating networks of donors who cut checks in increments up to $2,800. Interviews with nearly a dozen Republicans familiar with the campaign’s fundraising depict an operation beset by departures, staffers with no prior fundraising experience and accusations of irresponsible spending.
Trump is raking in big money online and has amassed an enormous war chest. But Joe Biden has outraised the president for two consecutive months, and there are growing concerns among senior Republicans about whether the dysfunction within Guilfoyle’s team is translating into money left on the table for what has become an uphill fight for a second term.
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Guilfoyle’s unit is part of a massive Trump fundraising apparatus. Her department raises money into Trump Victory, a joint account between the reelection campaign and the Republican National Committee. While Guilfoyle’s team is mainly responsible for gathering $2,800 checks, the committee focuses on collecting donations into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. There is also the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, which vacuums up small-dollar contributions.