Even as we’re currently in the heart of the 2023 campaign season, we still must keep an eye on the 2024 Presidential cycle, where we recently passed a notable milestone: the end of the third fundraising quarter.
These quarterly FEC reports allow us to track how campaigns develop over time, and are especially helpful in judging Presidential efforts. After all, for roughly two centuries now, the road to the White House has been paved with green dollar bills.
This new quarterly report spans from July 1st to September 30th; so let’s dive in and see what the candidates raised, what they spent, how much cash they have on hand and just what it all means!
Cash on Hand: $32,180,366.32
The incumbent was once again the leading fundraiser in the Presidential race. Of course this isn’t exactly surprising, as the sitting President benefits from a number of advantages over his competitors, including the ability to bundle their totals with party committees. Taking all those groups into account, Biden raised $71 million last quarter with a cash on hand total of almost $91 million.
For comparison’s sake, in the third quarter of 2019, Donald Trump’s campaign brought in $125 million and possessed $158 million cash on hand. Biden’s totals are instead much closer to Barack Obama’s 2011 $70 million haul, although he’s far ahead of the then-gigantic $49.5 million George W. Bush raised over this same time period in 2003.
In contrast to the previous quarter, the Biden team compiled some serious expenses by finally getting their operation fully up and running. At the same time, they also got some major help from the DNC, which shouldered the cost of this fall’s $25 million TV advertising blitz.
Finally, for all the summer speculation that Robert Kennedy Jr. could embarrass Biden early on in the Democratic primary, Kennedy’s numbers deflated to such a degree that he decided to run as an Independent instead.
Cash on Hand: $101,166.69
The author and long-shot candidate kept one promise from last quarter, as she didn’t pour any more of her own money into her campaign. That will be a tough pledge to keep, though, given the ever-present turmoil inside her team. For instance, in July a shake-up saw six staffers leave as Williamson hired her third campaign manager in five months. Such a shambolic effort simply isn’t able to bring in the kind of money necessary to finally crack the double-digit mark in national Democratic averages.
Republican Candidates (In Order of Polling)
Cash on Hand: $37,541,960.55
Despite those 91 indictments, former President Donald Trump continues to crush the Republican field in fundraising as well as the polls. Of course, that didn’t stop the Trump team from some creative accounting that allowed them to claim a Q3 total of over $45 million a few weeks ago. Trump’s campaign actually brought in $24.5 million, just under Pres. Biden’s own $24.7 million haul; and while Trump holds a cash on hand advantage over Biden, that only applies if you don’t count any of Biden’s coordinating committees.
It’s also clear from this report, as well as the previous second quarter report, that Trump’s legal problems are fueling his campaign’s warchest. Trump continues to get money bumps whenever he’s indicted, and his booking at the Fulton County jail – which resulted in that memorable mugshot – was his second best fundraising day of the campaign. In fact, the only day where Trump raised more cash was on April 4th, the day of his very first court appearance. It remains to be seen whether he’s seen similar spikes from his recent court visits over the last few weeks.
Cash on Hand: $12,326,904.86
Whereas Biden and Trump both brought in more this quarter than they did last quarter, DeSantis’ haul dropped from $20.1 million to $11.1 million, leaving him with just $5 million of available primary funds. This dichotomy is only the latest signal that the Florida Governor is simply not on the same level right now as the 45th and 46th Presidents of the United States.
After all, since this quarter began on July 1st, DeSantis has dropped 6.2% and 8.4% respectively in the FiveThirtyEight and RealClearPolitics 2024 GOP primary averages. Such a precipitous decline is clearly having a chilling effect on donors, many of whom are now beginning to resign themselves to another Trump nomination.
The final holdouts, however, recently held an event to hear out the DeSantis, Haley and Scott teams, with the conventional wisdom holding that Haley’s strong debate performances now make her the best positioned alternative to Trump. As it now stands, DeSantis still possesses two golden opportunities to turn this tide: the next GOP debate on November 8th and his 1-on-1 debate with California Gov. Gavin Newsom on November 30th.
Cash on Hand: $11,551,692.33
Undoubtedly the biggest political story of the last few months has been the steady rise of former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley from also-ran to challenging Ron DeSantis’ status as the chief Trump alternative. Off her two solid debate performances, Haley jumped over DeSantis into second place in both New Hampshire and her home state of South Carolina. While DeSantis is still ahead of Haley in Iowa and nationally, she’s closing the gap there as well.
Republican benefactors have certainly taken notice of all this. At last week’s aforementioned donor retreat in Texas, the Haley camp made the case that DeSantis blew his chance and now it’s time for the non-Trump elements in the party to coalesce behind her. It’s already apparent that she’s winning some of them over, as her haul increased from $5.3 million to $8.2 million since last quarter, with her resulting cash on hand improving from $6.8 million to $11.5 million. She still needs to pick up the pace, though, if she wants to pose a serious threat to Trump by January.
Cash on Hand: $4,247,876.55
It was only a few months ago that Vivek was the hottest candidate in the GOP primary, as he rose from anonymous businessman to center stage at the first debate. Yet that debate performance wrecked havoc with his favorables, causing him to reverse course in the second contest. Clearly the backlash was on, as no less than Fox News’ Sean Hannity recently invited Vivek on his show just to attack the candidate as dishonest.
While the honeymoon is certainly over, Ramaswamy’s still got enough money to compete. After all, he can always dip into his own deep well of funds if fundraising dries up. He’s already donated a healthy $1.7 million to his campaign, and loaned it a gargantuan $15.25 million. Given all that, I’d bet on Vivek staying in through at least Super Tuesday.
Cash on Hand: $1,181,451.55
Another 2024 fundraising deadline, another atrocious report for Mike Pence. The ex-VP tripled his total from the second quarter, yet barely managed to improve his cash on hand sum over these past three months. Digging deeper, Pence’s campaign is currently over $621,000 in debt after shelling out for direct mailers. As NBC News’ Dasha Burns noted, Pence’s numbers right now are somewhat similar to those put up by Scott Walker in the third quarter of 2015. Walker, of course, dropped out towards the end of that quarter. So if Pence fails to qualify for the third debate, expect the pundits to start circling like vultures.
Cash on Hand: $3,915,219.07
These numbers from Chris Christie and Mike Pence both seem to suggest that there’s not much money in running as an anti-Trump, old-school Republican right now. The former New Jersey Governor jumped into this race under the belief that he was uniquely equipped to take on Donald Trump in the debates and thus prevent a third straight Trump GOP nomination. Such a strategy fell apart, though, when Trump refused to participate in any debates.
The new plan now appears to be for Christie to focus his attention on the New Hampshire Primary, and this method has definitely been more successful, with Christie breaking into double digits in the Live Free or Die State. It’s unclear, however, whether Christie is taking these voters from Trump or someone like Nikki Haley, which ironically would help Trump. Either way, he might only have just enough cash to make it to January.
Cash on Hand: $13,330,124.35
No candidate on this list posted a more unsustainable burn rate than South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, who spent nearly three times what he brought in. Undoubtedly, Scott was depending on his Super PAC to take up some of the slack, which makes the news that his PAC is canceling their TV ad buys so devastating.
Scott does still have over $13 million in the bank, but that’s part of the $22 million he transferred over from his Senate account earlier this year. Altogether, it’s a far cry from a few months ago when some of DeSantis’ donors began to turn towards Sen. Scott. It seems that those dollars are instead now going to his Palmetto State colleague Nikki Haley.
Cash on Hand: $2,322,576.21
The Governor of North Dakota continues to struggle to break through in this crowded primary field, and his lackluster fundraising numbers are particularly damning because they include a $2 million loan from the candidate. Remember, that’s on top of another $10 million loan that he gave to his campaign last quarter. As of this moment, Burgum has yet to hit the donor and polling threshold necessary to qualify for the November 8th debate, a failure that could effectively end his campaign.
Cash on Hand: $325,287.14
Speaking of candidates who failed to qualify for a debate, former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson fell short of the threshold for the second debate last month. At that time, Hutchinson pledged that he would find a way to hit 4% in an early state by Thanksgiving, a goal he’s yet to meet. Considering that Hutchinson raised far less this quarter than any other Republican candidate – less than Marianne Williamson even – don’t be surprised to see Hutchinson exit the stage soon.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Cash on Hand: $6,172,040.91
Kennedy’s initial Democratic Primary run generated a healthy amount of press which, along with his recognizable name, gave him a decent head-start in the polls. As his campaign progressed, however, and Democratic voters learned about his idiosyncratic views on everything from vaccines to foreign policy, that support began to recede. Consequently, Kennedy chose to run as an Independent instead, a move bound to alienate those Republicans supporters who simply wanted him to serve as a Democratic primary spoiler. Therefore, it’s difficult to see what constituency Kennedy can depend on for future funds. In fact, he already had to refund over $173,000 in this past quarter, further evidence that his campaign is heading in the wrong direction.