Trump fundrais­ing power keeps the GOP grate­ful

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY JULIE BYKOWICZ

Repub­li­can sen­a­tors are buck­ing Pres­i­dent Trump’s calls to re­vive the health care de­bate. And Mr. Trump just ousted his only top White House aide with deep links to the Repub­li­can Party.

But the pres­i­dent and his party won’t be call­ing it quits any­time soon. They re­main tightly linked by a force more pow­er­ful than pol­i­tics or per­sonal ties: cash.

Mr. Trump’s fundrais­ing prow­ess is the en­gine of the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee and a life­line for every Repub­li­can plan­ning to rely on the party for fi­nan­cial help dur­ing next year’s con­gres­sional races. Lean­ing heav­ily on the pres­i­dent’s ap­peal among small donors, the party has raised $75 mil­lion in the first six months of the year, more than dou­ble what the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee had raised by the same point in Pres­i­dent Obama’s first year.

“The pres­i­dent is some­body who ab­so­lutely is an as­set when it comes to fundrais­ing,” RNC Chair­woman Ronna Rom­ney McDaniel said. Mr. Trump has a strong bond with a base of Repub­li­cans who have been more will­ing this year than ever be­fore to chip in. The party says it col­lected more cash on­line in the first six months of the year than in all of 2016.

In late June Mr. Trump played star and host of a fundraiser for his re-elec­tion cam­paign and the RNC. The event at the Trump In­ter­na­tional Ho­tel, just down Penn­syl­va­nia Ave. from the White House, raised $10 mil­lion to be di­vided be­tween Mr. Trump and the party, the kind of bounty usu­ally re­served for the fi­nal months be­fore an elec­tion.

The fundrais­ing num­bers help ex­plain why more Repub­li­cans — par­tic­u­larly those fac­ing re-elec­tion next year — aren’t openly dis­tanc­ing them­selves from a pres­i­dent whose ap­proval rat­ing hov­ers be­low 40 per­cent and whose White House has been plagued by pub­lic back­bit­ing and leg­isla­tive stum­bles.

And while Mr. Trump hasn’t hes­i­tated to call out Repub­li­cans who defy him, he’s largely come to ap­pre­ci­ate the per­ma­nence the RNC of­fers a White House that has had to quickly staff up from noth­ing — a task that hasn’t al­ways gone smoothly.

Mr. Trump’s dis­missal last week of Reince Priebus as chief of staff prompted a rush of con­cern from Repub­li­can law­mak­ers who’d got­ten to know Mr. Priebus dur­ing his nearly six years as party chair­man. Some won­dered if Mr. Trump was los­ing his only link to the in­sti­tu­tional Repub­li­can Party.

Yet the well-funded RNC has been re­for­mat­ted for the Trump era.

“The pres­i­dent likes the fact that the party is struc­tured to help his agenda, and there’s not a ques­tion that this RNC is 100 per­cent loyal to him,” said Brian Bal­lard, one of the party’s lead fundrais­ers. “It’s not like the RNC he in­her­ited as the party’s nom­i­nee; it’s his now.”

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