First, I have to admit that I do 90%-plus of my “reporting” on the 2020 campaign from a broken-down recliner in the living room.
I read several online papers, listen to some news shows, and field an endless stream of political fundraising texts & emails from all over.
Many days I put in several hours at it; one could easily spend every waking moment. (Do nightmares count?)
It isn’t much fun; I’m not by nature a political junkie. It’s more like an ultra-slow motion train wreck that’s hard to look away from; and I’m riding the train.
Yet obscure as my observation post is, maybe it occasionally reveals some clues of its own.
Here’s one, I think. It emerged from among the dozens of texts that came from Trump:
The important bit is: “8X -MATCH LIVE” . . .
Which supposedly means that for every dollar I sent in, the campaign would match it with $8 more, an 800% multiplier. They’ve sent several of those 8X appeals in the past week or so.
800 percent?? Who do they think they’re kidding??
Not me. If they have $8 bucks in hand to match every greenback that comes in, they must be loaded already.
But not that loaded. If they had it, they’d flaunt it. That’s the Trump way.
Nevertheless, over the past several weeks I’ve watched the “match” multiples climb steadily. Either they’re not getting the big returns of yore, or I’m a monkey’s uncle.
And now, looking back, this clicks with something else:
The Republican convention’s shameless misuse of federal facilities in Washington and Baltimore not only openly defied federal laws, but was also undoubtedly (and I suspect maybe more importantly) a big money-saver for a strapped campaign war chest.
Then add in this: Online newser the AZMirror is reporting that Trump Is going dark in Arizona. He has canceled ads worth $580,000 in Phoenix just for this coming week. The Mirror added that the campaign had stopped ads in Tucson a couple weeks ago.
But last time I looked Trump won Arizona in 2016 by almost 100,000 votes. Now he’s pulling ads out? Wow. Spread thin, are we?
Once I dug a little, more clues popped up. As usual, the Associated Press was ahead of the pack. On August 31 it had headlined that
“Trump goes mostly dark in TV advertising fight with Biden”:
Donald Trump has pulled most of his advertising from TV over the past week, ceding the airwaves to Democratic rival Joe Biden, who is currently outspending him by more than 10–to–1, advertising data shows.
Though Trump has an outsized ability to command national attention, it is unusual for a White House contender to go mostly dark on TV the week after their presidential convention. The election is just over two months away and early voting will begin in September in some states.
The move comes as Trump’s campaign has burned through money almost as fast as it has taken it in. And after Biden drastically narrowed what was once an overwhelming cash advantage enjoyed by the president, campaign officials have acknowledged they were trying to conserve money.
That’s allowed Biden an opportunity to communicate an unfiltered message to voters without competing advertising.
During the month of August, Biden doubled what Trump spent, dropping about $80 million in states that included key battlegrounds such as Wisconsin, Florida, Pennsylvania and Michigan, according to data from the ad tracking firm Kantar/CMAG.
Trump’s limited spending targeted some of those states, but it was also directed to places like Iowa and Montana, which he won handily in 2016. [The last week in August] he [spent] about $1.6 million to Biden’s $18.3 million. Most of Trump’s ads are placed on Fox News Channel and CNN, as well as a smattering that will run in New Mexico and Washington, D.C., the data shows.
And on Labor Day, the New York Times, in a presidential race background piece, slipped this grenade into a middle paragraph:
“[Trump’s] campaign also appears to be facing a significant financial crunch and has largely ceased advertising on television even as Mr. Biden begins to spend heavily from his war chest after raising about $365 million in August.
Which reminds me, as of early September 8, the Trump campaign has not yet made a public report yet on its August campaign take: Biden’s $365 million figure is still unanswered.
Now, I know that money isn’t everything in politics. But I don’t know what else meets the staff payroll, pays for all those ads, and covers the endless other expenses of a national campaign. Not least, it’s a concrete measure of enthusiasm & devotion.
And I’m starting to suspect another thing: if Trump’s base is slowing down on donations, something big may be in motion: could it be —
— The impact of the recession/depression he keeps insisting is a hoax?
— The effect of six months of pandemic fatigue and fear?
— The stirrings of doubt under the bills of some of those now sweat-stained 2016 MAGA caps?
— GatherIng pangs of long-moribund conscience for thoughtful evangelicals, for whom Jesus’ commands about “the least of these” have so long been limited to the unborn ones?
Could this be happening? Or is it the Mother of all Deepfakes, to lull us into complacency, so they can suddenly pounce & shatter Biden with what some GOP operatives call the Death Star?
In any event, let’s make this pause a spur: keep at it, take nothing for granted, seven more weeks (and a possible cliffhanger/crisis) to go.
But take heart: maybe we’ll get through this after all.