Politics

Trump campaign shifts fundraising gears with the president sidelined due to Covid-19

Key Points
  • President Donald Trump's campaign is reshuffling its fundraising efforts while he remains in the hospital after being diagnosed with the coronavirus. 
  • As the president receives treatment at Walter Reed hospital, donors have been encouraged to keep giving and to attend what will likely be virtual events.
  • They are sometimes reassured that they will get a photo with the president at a later date, sources said. 
U.S. President Donald Trump boards Air Force as he departs Washington on campaign travel to participate in the first presidential debate with Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in Cleveland, Ohio at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, September 29, 2020.
Carlos Barria | Reuters

With under 30 days to go until Election Day, President Donald Trump's campaign is reshuffling its fundraising efforts while he remains in the hospital after being diagnosed with the coronavirus

Trump's campaign manager, Bill Stepien, who also tested positive for Covid-19, previously announced all of the events featuring the president himself have been either postponed or moved to a virtual setting.

Since then, campaign aides have been scrambling to organize virtual and in-person gatherings for donors that paid, in some cases, six-figure checks to privately meet and take a picture with Trump himself, according to people familiar with the matter. These people declined to be named as the changes were still being made. 

As the president receives treatment at Walter Reed hospital, donors have been encouraged to keep giving and to attend what will likely be virtual events. They are sometimes reassured that they will get a photo with the president at a later date, some of the people noted. 

Those familiar with the campaign's fundraising efforts say that they have been seeing a surge in contributions, both before Trump was admitted to the hospital and afterward. One of the people explained that on Tuesday, the day of the debate, the campaign raised $16 million, although that total does not include the amount raised during the course of the fiery clash between Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden. The Biden campaign raised nearly $10 million during the debate. 

Another person, who raises money for Trump in the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, said that despite the president being sidelined, donors are still flooding the campaign with cash. 

"I've been dealing with a lot of incoming from donors eager to show their monetary support," this person noted.  The campaign has been pushing out fundraising texts and emails to supporters, including one sent out late Sunday which features a video of Trump in his hospital room. 

"President Trump is a fighter and he will come out of this stronger than before and even more fired up to win," the email reads. "Can we count on you to help secure another victory for President Trump?"

The Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee didn't immediately return requests for comment.

Trump and the RNC went into September with less cash on hand than Biden and the Democratic National Committee. 

The overall 2020 election is expected to cost $10.8 billion. Since early September, a study by the Wesleyan Media Project shows Biden's campaign has outspent Trump's both on TV and digital ads. Biden is ahead of Trump nationally by 14 points, according to an NBC News/ Wall Street Journal poll. 

It's still unclear how much both teams raised last month as disclosure reports are set to be released in the coming weeks. 

Before announcing early Friday that he had the virus, Trump was planning a West Coast fundraising swing, including in Orange County, California, a wealthy region of the state, the people noted. Now, the tentative plan is to still have the Orange County event, only it's likely to feature surrogates such as South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and other campaign supporters, they said. 

Trump went to a fundraising event in Bedminster, New Jersey, last week, even after the White House learned that his longtime advisor Hope Hicks had contracted the virus. After donors found out that that Trump was sick, many panicked and started reaching out to campaign officials for guidance. At least 200 donors attended the event, with some coming from the across the country.

Last week, after Trump was admitted to the hospital, the campaign said it would host virtual events until the vice presidential debate on Wednesday, when the in-person events will resume. Vice President Mike Pence is due to lead a rally Thursday in Arizona.

Mark Meadows, the president's chief of staff, said the medical team will be deciding later on Monday whether he's discharged. Trump's press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, announced on Monday that she, too, has the coronavirus. 

Even before he was diagnosed with the coronavirus, Trump himself has previously conducted very few virtual fundraising events, and has relied on his allies to be special guests as a draw for donors instead, including his economic advisor Larry Kudlow. His eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., has also been a key guest for donors in the past.  

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How the Trump administration is changing fundraising efforts amid the President's coronavirus diagnosis