PACs spend more than $9 mil­lion to re-elect Trump

Lodi News-Sentinel - - OPINION - By Ben Wieder and Anita Kumar

WASH­ING­TON — Some po­lit­i­cal groups are spend­ing mil­lions of dol­lars ahead of the midterm elec­tions to sup­port a can­di­date who is not on any bal­lot next month — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

Even as Repub­li­cans fight to keep con­trol of Congress, at least six po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tees have spent more than $9 mil­lion to pro­mote Trump’s re-elec­tion on TV, by phone, by mail and on­line since he took of­fice, ac­cord­ing to a McClatchy anal­y­sis of Fed­eral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion fil­ings through Tues­day.

Those same groups have spent only about $1.2 mil­lion sup­port­ing Repub­li­cans can­di­dates for the House and Sen­ate, ac­cord­ing to the anal­y­sis.

“Don­ald Trump is the force of the move­ment,” said Eric Beach, co-chair­man of Great Amer­ica PAC. “He’ll help Repub­li­can can­di­dates win their elec­tions.”

Repub­li­cans fight­ing to re­tain ma­jori­ties in Congress in a year when the pres­i­dent’s party tra­di­tion­ally loses ground have largely been out­raised by their Demo­cratic coun­ter­parts. Democrats need a net gain of 23 seats in the House and two in the Sen­ate to gain con­trol of the cham­bers.

“It is quite un­usual to use scarce fi­nan­cial re­sources to boost a pres­i­dent just weeks be­fore the midterm elec­tions in­stead of sup­port­ing the can­di­dates in House, Sen­ate and gover­nors’ races who are ac­tu­ally on the bal­lot,” said Bren­dan J. Doherty, a po­lit­i­cal science pro­fes­sor at the U.S. Naval Academy who tracks pres­i­den­tial fundrais­ing. “This spend­ing strat­egy is con­sis­tent with the pres­i­dent’s own ap­proach.”

Trump is the first U.S. pres­i­dent since at least the 1970s to raise money for his own re­elec­tion cam­paign dur­ing the first two years of his term. His re-elec­tion cam­paign has al­ready raised more than $50 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to the cam­paign’s most re­cent fundrais­ing re­port, which pro­vides in­for­ma­tion through the end of June.

“This is ab­so­lutely un­charted ter­ri­tory,” said Sheila Krumholz, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the Cen­ter for Re­spon­sive Pol­i­tics, which tracks money in pol­i­tics. “I can’t re­call ads specif­i­cally for the pres­i­dent this early.”

By com­par­i­son, Trump’s pre­de­ces­sor, Demo­crat Barack Obama, didn’t raise money for him­self un­til his third year in of­fice. The po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tees sup­port­ing him didn’t spend money on him be­fore 2010, the year of the first midterm elec­tions in Obama’s first term.

“I don’t re­mem­ber any spend­ing in 2010 that would have been specif­i­cally proObama,” said Ru­fus Gif­ford who was the fundrais­ing direc­tor for the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee dur­ing the 2010 elec­tion, be­fore head­ing up fundrais­ing for Obama’s re-elec­tion cam­paign in 2012.

Trump’s cam­paign did not re­spond to a re­quest to com­ment.

Not all Repub­li­cans are bet­ter off with ads men­tion­ing Trump, es­pe­cially since some of the most vul­ner­a­ble Repub­li­cans in the House are in dis­tricts won by Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

“Does it help the House and Sen­ate can­di­dates?” Krumholz asked. “Not if they’re run­ning away from him. It’s re­ally race by race.”

But Trump’s midterm strat­egy shows he be­lieves the party’s for­tunes in the midterms are tied to him.

He has been head­lin­ing bois­ter­ous Make Amer­ica Great Again cam­paign ral­lies sev­eral times a week in states that backed him in 2016, in­clud­ing North Dakota, Mis­souri and West Vir­ginia, try­ing to per­suade sup­port­ers to vote for Repub­li­can can­di­dates.

Trump es­ti­mates that a third of at­ten­dees are not tra­di­tional Repub­li­can votes, ac­cord­ing to some­one fa­mil­iar with his strat­egy. Beach, mean­while, said an ad­di­tional 30 mil­lion peo­ple are listed on Repub­li­can voter lists this year be­cause of Trump’s elec­tion in 2016.

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