Trump Plays Down Weak Fundraising Numbers

Trump's decision to oust Corey Lewandowski aims to put an end to the months of infighting that had roiled his unconventional campaign

Republican Donald Trump on Tuesday was playing down his lousy May fundraising numbers, insisting that June's report will be better. 

Reports released Monday showed Trump's campaign started June with $1.3 million in the bank, compared with $42 million for the presumptive Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton. The reports came out hours after Trump fired campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, in an attempt to restart his struggling campaign.

Campaign officials said in a statement that June marked the campaign's first full month of fundraising activity. They said that activity will be reflected in the campaign's next federal fundraising report.

They added that fundraising "has been incredible" and insisted that they "continue to see a tremendous outpouring of support for Mr. Trump and money to the Republican Party."

Trump sent out his first fundraising email on Tuesday, telling recipients "I need your help" to beat Clinton. He said he would personally match all donations up to $2 million. 

"This is the first fundraising email I have ever sent on behalf of my campaign," Trump wrote. "That's right. THE FIRST ONE." He said in the email Tuesday that his offer to match up to $2 million in donations could "help make history."

Trump has also purchased ad space on Facebook to make a similar appeal. He says he wants "to beat Crooked Hillary," but "I need your help to do so.

Trump acknowledged Tuesday morning that he was struggling to rally fellow Republicans after new reports show him badly lagging Clinton in campaign cash.

"I'm not looking to spend a billion dollars. I need support from the Republicans," Trump said on Fox News. "In some respects I get more support from the Democrats than the Republicans." 

The hashtag #TrumpSoPoor started trending on Twitter Monday, mocking Trump's campaign funds. 

Trump said the Republican National Committee and its chairman, Reince Priebus, "have been terrific," but "It would be nice to have full verbal support from people in office." 

Trump also expanded his charge against the Clinton Foundation accepting foreign donations, saying on Fox News "money from the Middle East" will be part of Clinton's campaign spending.

On NBC's "Today" show Tuesday morning, Trump said he's willing to finance his general election campaign with his own money, similar to his efforts in securing the GOP nomination.

"I spent $55 million of own money to win the primaries. 55. That's a lot of money by even any standard. I may do that again in the general election," Trump said in a phone interview. "I have a lot of cash, I may do it in the general election, but it would be nice to have some help from the party."

Aides hope Lewandowski's departure will bring an end to the infighting that has plagued the campaign since Trump hired strategist Paul Manafort in March to help secure delegates ahead of the convention. Since then, the campaign's rival factions have been jockeying for power, slowing hiring and other decision-making. Manafort, who has long advocated a more scripted approach backed by a larger and more professional campaign apparatus, will be taking full control.

In a conference call with top aides following Lewandowski's firing, Manafort signaled a rapid expansion would be coming soon. 

"The campaign's going to pick up the speed," senior adviser Barry Bennett said. 

But even with Lewandowski's departure, Trump faces an uphill climb. The campaign is woefully understaffed compared to Clinton's, and Trump has so far shown little appetite for investing in even the basic building blocks of a modern-day White House campaign. 

His communications team currently consists of a single spokeswoman and he has just about 30 paid staff deployed to battleground states across the country. Clinton, in contrast, has had a veritable campaign army mobilized for months, backed by millions of dollars in battleground-state television advertising. Trump has yet to reserve any ad time. 

Instead, he is outsourcing even basic campaign functions to the Republican National Committee — an untested strategy that comes with risks, given the shaky support he has received from Republican leaders. 

Trump has also squandered precious time campaigning in states unlikely to determine the election. And this week, he'll take a trip to Scotland to promote the renovation of one of his golf courses. 

Trump has also been slow to embrace an aggressive plan to raise the hundreds of millions of dollars needed to fund both his campaign and the RNC's ground game — frustrating donors. 

New fundraising reports covering the first few weeks after Trump became the presumptive nominee show the RNC raised $13 million in May — about what it raised in April, before his rivals left the race. By comparison, four years earlier, GOP nominee Mitt Romney helped the RNC bring in $34 million. 

Veteran GOP fundraiser Fred Malek said he doubted Lewandowski's departure would have much impact on the campaign's fund raising and said the real change has to come from Trump himself. 

"If it signals a change in his style and approach, it can only be positive. But I feel he needs to do more. And I feel that, no matter what he does on the fundraising front, he's going to be at a huge financial disadvantage," he said, explaining that it typically takes candidates two years to build fundraising operations.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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