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Louis Jacobson
By Louis Jacobson September 4, 2020

If Your Time is short

• President Donald Trump is maintaining his money lead against Democratic nominee Joe Biden, although Biden has made up ground

• Experts say that Biden is probably on a pace to amass enough money to remain competitive, even if he continues to trail Trump. 

President Donald Trump is maintaining his money lead against Democratic nominee Joe Biden, although Biden made up ground on his way to becoming the official nominee.

For this, our first update on the presidential money race since July 9, we looked at three sources of funds: dollars raised directly by the campaign; dollars raised by outside groups that are aligned with the campaign but operate independently of it; and dollars raised by the national party committees. 

We analyzed these three types of funds on the advice of campaign finance experts, because doing so gives the broadest look at how well-funded each candidate is. The data comes from federal disclosure forms collected by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics

In the big picture, Trump and the groups aligned with him have raised $970 million, which is substantially more than the $674 million raised by Biden and the groups aligned with him.

 

Notably, both candidates have outpaced the two presidential campaigns of 2016, for Trump and Hillary Clinton. Clinton and her aligned groups had raised a total of $604 million by this point in 2016, while Trump had raised $345.3 million.

 

Beneath the topline numbers, some patterns stand out.

The good news for Trump is that the Republican National Committee continues to hold a wide lead over the Democratic National Committee in fundraising. That’s been the primary source of his enduring money lead over Biden.

At the same time, Biden has some good news: He’s begun to catch up in the other two categories of money, campaign fundraising and fundraising by outside groups.

In our first analysis on May 29, Trump led Biden in these two categories, $324.7 million to $259.6 million, a 25% advantage.

Now, Biden has pulled much closer. Trump leads Biden in those categories, $504.7 million to $469.6 million, a lead of just 7.5%.

Trump, meanwhile, retains an advantage in cash on hand, which refers to money raised but not yet spent. Trump leads Biden in cash on hand, $256 million to $166.9 million, for a roughly $89 million edge.

 

How significant for the race is Trump’s fundraising lead? Experts say the most important factor is not the size of the lead, but whether Biden has amassed enough to remain competitive, which he probably has.

"Research into money in politics has shown us that spending more is less important than spending enough," said Larry J. Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. "The point of diminishing returns is reached rather quickly. If you have enough money to get your messages across, you can get outspent substantially and still win."

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