Aug 6, 2023 - Politics & Policy

2024 presidential candidates are burning cash fast

Editor's note: The spending rates were fixed for Trump (to 39% from 37%) and for Biden (to 8% from 38%). Data: FEC; Chart: Axios Visuals

Five months before the first voting of the 2024 presidential race, candidates are burning through tens of millions in cash — especially Republicans trying to beat former President Trump.

Why it matters: Campaign "burn rates" offer a window into early aggressiveness — and are being stoked by the scramble to meet steep RNC requirements to join upcoming debates.

  • Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) has the only GOP presidential campaign that's spending money faster than raising it.
  • But Scott has cash to burn: He had more than $21 million on hand at the end of June, thanks largely to leftover money from his Senate campaign.

Zoom in: Measuring a candidate's financial strength is complicated now that super PACs do more of the work. They have far fewer fundraising restrictions than campaigns, but are supposed to operate separately from them.

  • Scott, Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis benefit from hefty super PAC funds and transfers from past elections. DeSantis' super PAC, Never Back Down, has spent an eye-popping $34 million in recent months, but still has $97 million in the bank.

That number doesn't necessarily mean broad support for DeSantis, since $82.5 million was transferred from a different PAC that supported his state-level campaign.

  • At the end of June, DeSantis' campaign had spent about 40% of the more than $20 million it had taken in since he launched his campaign in May. He has laid off dozens of staffers while struggling to dent Trump's lead.
  • DeSantis is overwhelmingly relying on wealthy donors who soon may reach their primary-donation limits of $3,300, Axios found.

The Trump campaign's grassroots energy remained strong in the second quarter.

  • Trump has a network of PACs able to spend on his behalf. But tens of millions of those dollars are flying out the window to pay for Trump's mounting legal fees, The New York Times reports.

Zoom in: Vivek Ramaswamy and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum — wealthy businessmen who have loaned their campaigns millions — are spending rapidly to try to build name recognition and qualify for debates.

The other side: President Biden's campaign spent 7.7% of the nearly $20 million it had received directly through June, per FEC data.

Editor's note: The chart and story were corrected to show the burn rate for Biden was 8% (not 38%) and for Trump was 39% (not 37%). This now reflects only data on campaign donations and spending after Jan. 1.

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