Feb 1, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Trump-backed candidates confront cash wave

Former President Trump is seen speaking at a rally last Saturday in Conroe, Texas.
Former President Trump speaks at a rally in Conroe, Texas, last weekend. Photo: Sergio Flores/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Some of Donald Trump's handpicked candidates are hitting an obstacle in their efforts to purge the Republican Party of Trump skeptics: money. Lots of it.

Driving the news: Key Trump-backed Republican challengers were heavily outraised by their Republican primary opponents late last year, newly filed financial reports show.

  • The money advantage has the potential to play a decisive role in closely watched House and Senate primary contests this midterm year.
  • And the lack of it can spell trouble for a number of candidates Trump has endorsed out of personal affinity, or simply a hatred of the more moderate Republicans they're looking to unseat.

By the numbers: The trend was most evident in Wyoming.

The incumbent, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), more than quadrupled the fourth-quarter fundraising haul of her top primary opponent, fellow Republican Harriet Hageman.

  • Cheney's $2 million haul, her best-ever fundraising quarter, came as she spearheaded efforts to investigate Trump's role in the January 6 Capitol attack — triggering the ex-president's fury.
  • Hageman reported raising $443,000.

Other Republicans who, like Cheney, voted to impeach Trump early last year also outraised Trump-backed challengers.

  • Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) brought in nearly $1.4 million in the fourth quarter of 2021. Her Trump-backed challenger, Kelly Tshibaka, raised just over $600,000.
  • Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) raised about $726,000, more than five times than the $135,000 taken in by primary rival Steve Carra.
  • Rep. Jamie Herrera Buetler (R-Wash.) raised $525,000 to challenger Joe Kent's $306,000.
  • John Gibbs, who's challenging Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.), only entered the race in early November, yet the $51,000 he raised during the last two months of the year was well below the pace of Meijer's Q4 total of $530,000.

Even in some contests without an explicit Trump antagonist, Trump-endorsed candidates are facing an onslaught of cash.

  • Rep. Mo Brooks, the Trump-backed Republican running for Alabama's open U.S. Senate seat, pulled in a modest $385,000 during the fourth quarter.
  • Republican rival Katie Boyd Britt more than tripled that haul; she now has more than $4 million in the bank, compared to less than $2 million for Brooks.
  • Meanwhile, a late entrant into the race, Army veteran Mike Durant, put over $4 million of his own money behind his campaign late last year.

Yes, but: Trump himself is raking in political money.

  • His political operation brought in $51 million during the second half of the year, and now has more than $122 million cash on hand.
  • It's not clear how much of that Trump is willing to spend directly on behalf of candidates he's endorsed.
  • Even if he distributed it freely, donation limits mean he won't be able to single handedly turn around any one candidate's fundraising.
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