Trump Touting California Spooks Republican Donors

Republicans are privately saying they now think Trump can raise no more than around $200 million. They had been privately hoping he could get to double that, but more and more the GOP is thinking it will have to do a substantial separate fundraising effort. That causes problems for keeping the House and Senate. If the GOP raises separate funds, some are worried Trump will attack the GOP if it doesn’t spend that money on him instead of the House and Senate.

Complicating things for the GOP are Trump’s statements on his path to victory.

First, he hired John McLaughlin to poll New York, seemingly convinced he should spend money there. McLaughlin was Eric Cantor’s pollster who had Cantor up big before Cantor’s annihilation. That made some donors more than a bit squeamish. Likewise, Trump, who won New York, got less votes winning New York on the Republican side than Bernie Sanders got losing on the Democratic side. The major donors, who have seen their investments scuttled in two consecutive presidential cycles, do not want to invest in a plan to win New York.

Second, Trump keeps bringing up California and Maryland and did so again this week to donors. Maryland’s Republican governor still will not go on the record about whether Trump is fit for office. California, though, is the real sore spot and tip off to donors that Trump is delusional.

In 2000, Karl Rove sent George W. Bush on a swing through California at the end of the campaign. In fairness to Rove, Bush was trying to pick off Oregon, the California GOP donors had raised $13 million, so the campaign saw it as worth it to thank and reward the California donors. With a 530 vote win over Al Gore in Florida, however, the major party donors viewed it as foolish. To this day they mutter about Bush spending more time in Florida instead of out west.

Fast forward to 2010. The National Republican Senatorial Committee poured resources into California late in the race to help Carly Fiorina. She wound up getting crushed while in Colorado Ken Buck lost by only about two points even though the GOP’s gubernatorial pick in Colorado got curb stomped. It was abundantly obvious that had the GOP poured money into Colorado instead of California, they could have won that seat. But the NRSC did not like that Buck was backed by Jim DeMint’s Senate Conservatives Fund.

Donors to the GOP realize that California is not in play.

To have their candidate try to convince them otherwise is an off-putting event for two reasons.

The first is that it suggests the candidate has unrealistic expectations and is delusional about his realistic path to victory.

The second is that it suggests the candidate does not know when to turn off the spin and bulls**t machine to have frank and honest conversations with those who would write the checks to fund victory.

Between Trump’s behavior on the trail in the past week and now the grand claims of winning Maryland and California while funding an effort in New York, the donors know a bad investment when they see one. More and more of them are thinking they will either focus on congress and the states or just sit out until 2020.

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Erick Erickson

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