Washington — It seems like a logical pairing: Republican donors who despise Donald Trump, and two GOP presidential hopefuls sticking it out to keep him from the nomination.
Yet such a financial cavalry never arrived for Ted Cruz and John Kasich, ignoring their impassioned pleas for financial help.
Donors who gave as much as allowed by law to establishment darlings Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio have mostly disappeared from the political landscape, according to an Associated Press analysis of campaign finance records. Less than 3 percent of the nearly 14,600 donors who gave the $2,700 limit to Bush or Rubio have also ponied up the maximum amount to Kasich or Cruz.
By not writing those checks, they’re depriving Cruz and Kasich of as much as $39 million each in their final push to topple Trump, who has formidably deep pockets and has loaned $36 million to his own campaign.
Trump trounced his competitors in Tuesday’s elections, putting him in a stronger position to win the nomination outright in the next six weeks of voting.
The quest to stop him has grown so dire that Cruz on Wednesday took the unusual step of announcing a running mate, Carly Fiorina. Earlier, he and Kasich agreed to divide up some remaining primary states to improve their chances of beating Trump.
But donors’ continued shunning of Cruz and Kasich is one reason they haven’t had more success.
“There are a significant number of major fundraisers in the Republican Party whose networks are exhausted and donors who are worn thin emotionally from the effort they made for a candidate who is no longer in the race,” said Wayne Berman, a longtime Republican fundraiser. “That combination has led to many, many people sitting on the sidelines.”
He’s speaking from experience. Berman was the national finance chairman for Rubio and chose not to raise money for any other candidate after the Florida senator dropped out March 15.
Both Kasich and Cruz have feverishly pitched themselves to donors as the candidate best able to unify the party. It has been a particularly tough fit for Cruz, a first-term Texas senator who has made his name as an unrelenting conservative fighter — even against those in his own party.
He’s had a healthy core of his own donors, including roughly 3,900 who have given the maximum amount. In fact, Cruz is the best Republican campaign fundraiser of the 2016 cycle, and started April with $8.8 million cash on hand.
Still, this critical stage of the race has called for extra outreach, particularly with expensive contests such as California coming up and Cruz in need of better primary performances to derail Trump. Cruz has stepped up his requests of donors who might not have otherwise considered him. He and his wife, a Goldman Sachs manager on leave, talked to New York financiers last week at the Harvard Club of New York City.
They’re seldom responding, AP’s analysis shows. Through the end of March, just 186 Bush-Rubio maxed-out donors gave the maximum to Cruz.
Fred Zeidman, a Houston-based fundraiser for Bush’s failed bid, is one of them. He said he felt he “owed” the donation to Cruz because of his strong support of Israel, Zeidman’s top issue. “I wanted to show him my appreciation for that,” Zeidman said.
Still, Zeidman said he can understand why lots of former Bush and Rubio donors are reluctant.
“At this point, many of them feel like the main objective should be to beat the Democratic nominee, so they’re keeping their powder dry until the general election, in effect just letting the primary system sort itself out,” he said.
Kasich, the governor of Ohio, has attracted 174 maxed-out donors who also gave the maximum to Bush and Rubio. He’s won over some of the party’s top female donors, including Anna Mann, Rupert Murdoch’s ex-wife; Lynne Walton, a Wal-Mart heiress; and Helen DeVos, wife of Amway founder Richard DeVos.
But Kasich has been in desperate need of more donors willing to give as much as they can. He started April with just $1.2 million cash on hand.
The AP analysis is based on reports of campaign contributions filed with the Federal Election Commission from the beginning of the 2016 presidential election cycle through the end of March.
The AP looked at donors who gave the maximum primary amount to Bush or Rubio with those who had given the maximum primary amount to the Democratic and Republican candidates still in the race, comparing each donor’s name, city, state and zip code. Because the analysis excluded donors if any of the information didn’t match, it could result in a slight undercount.
The analysis revealed another troubling finding for Cruz and Kasich: Democratic front runner Hillary Clinton attracted about the same number of Bush-Rubio donors as did their campaigns.
About a dozen Bush-Rubio donors have also given to Trump. A tiny core of 15 Bush-Rubio donors continued to hedge their bets by maxing out to both Cruz and Kasich — continuing their spread-the-love approach this election cycle. Stanley Hubbard, a billionaire Minnesota broadcast executive, has doled out checks of $2,500 or more to Scott Walker, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Chris Christie and John Kasich.
Of his multi-layered giving, Hubbard told the AP a few months ago that he wanted anyone other than Trump or Cruz at the top of the GOP ticket because he saw either of them as devastating for the party’s down-ballot prospects.
Trump’s continued dominance led him to revise that view: He gave Cruz a check of $2,700 on March 31.
“He’s not my first choice, no,” Hubbard said last week. He said he has no regrets about his heretofore fruitless campaign gifts. “Not a bit. When you give to politicians, sometimes you lose. That’s the way it works.”
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