Almost every day, somebody somewhere recycles the idea that President Donald J. Trump doesn’t want to be president. He never did, they say. His heart is not in it. He wants to protect his business empire first and foremost. He doesn’t like having to answer to Congress. You’ll have heard these arguments in one form or another. They all make sense, until you consider that there is almost zero evidence to support them.
The truth is that, unless he is pulling the greatest con perpetuated against American democracy (not impossible), Trump is running again – and his campaign is deadly serious. In fact, in terms of organisational prowess, it may already be the most impressive re-election effort ever launched by an incumbent president.
Just look at the news that Team Trump 2020 has raised more than £22m ($30m) in the first quarter of 2019. This despite – or perhaps because of – all the noise surrounding the Democratic candidates in the first months of this year. Trump has thus already matched or even outraised Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris, the leading Democratic fundraisers, combined. He now has over £30m ($40m) in his war chest, a formidable sum.
More remarkably, the fundraising has all been done beneath the media radar. The 2020 Trump campaign is in some ways the inverse of 2016. Three years ago, Trump was in the insurgent who got all the publicity while being outrageous, while the Democratic machine busily accrued vast sums of money to shove Hillary Clinton into the White House. Now, Trump has his own machine.
It’s from small donors, too, which is generally the more popular (or populist) way to fill campaign coffers these days. Some 99 per cent of Trump donations are for £152 ($200) or less, according to the campaign, with an average contribution of just over £25 ($34).
Under the leadership of Brad Parscale, the Trump 2020 campaign has set an ambitious target of raising £760 ($1bn) to re-elect the president. As Democrats squabble and spend fortunes trying to kneecap each other for their own party nomination, Trump will look stronger and stronger.
Of course, money doesn’t always buy you power, as Hillary Clinton knows all too well. But Trump 2020 is a force to be reckoned with – more so, arguably, than Trump 2016. Three years ago, Trump’s various teams didn’t really know what they were doing – just ask them, they’ll tell you. How the tables have turned.