DeSantis burns cash, and Pence struggles: 5 takeaways from 2024 filings
By Rebecca Davis O’Brien and Reid J. Epstein
As a fuller financial picture of the 2024 presidential race emerged with Saturday’s campaign filing deadline, trouble appeared to lurk below the surface for Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida.
Despite a strong overall fundraising total of $20 million, DeSantis is spending hand over fist, and his dependence on large donors suggests a lack of grassroots support. Former President Donald Trump’s campaign recorded $17.7 million in fundraising, nearly all of which was transferred from another committee that will not report its donors until later this month.
In the meantime, President Joe Biden, his joint fundraising committee and the Democratic National Committee raised almost as much money as all of the Republican candidates for president combined.
Some of the more modest Republican earners — such as Nikki Haley, a former South Carolina governor and United Nations ambassador — appear to have solid support and lean campaign operations built for the long haul. About one-third of the $1.6 million haul by former Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey came from smaller donors, which is high for Republicans and could speak to relatively broad appeal.
Warning signs emerged for Republicans beyond DeSantis. Former Vice President Mike Pence brought in a paltry $1.2 million in contributions, raising questions about whether he can draw meaningful backing among Republicans.
Then there are the self-funded candidates, whose campaigns will last as long as they are willing to spend their own fortunes — and for now at least, they are certainly spending a lot.
Here are some takeaways from the filings, which detail fundraising and spending from April 1 to June 30.
DeSantis is reliant on big money ... and he’s spending it fast.
In the six weeks between his entry into the race and the end of the quarter, DeSantis raised $19.7 million for his campaign, $16.9 million of which came from contributions over $200, a sign of his dependence on big-dollar contributions.
He is also spending that money — quickly.
His filings Saturday showed that his campaign spent nearly $7.9 million in those six weeks. Top expenditures included $1.3 million earmarked for travel (several vendors appear to be private jet rental services); more than $1 million for payroll; and more than $800,000 apiece for digital fundraising consulting, media placement and postage.
It is a “burn rate” of about 40%, which is on the high end compared with the other Republican candidates. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina reported raising nearly $5.9 million in the second quarter, and spent $6.7 million. But he had more of a cushion: He carried $22 million from his Senate campaign into his presidential run.
DeSantis reported $12.2 million in cash on hand at the end of June; Scott had $21 million. By comparison, Haley’s campaign took in $5.3 million, spent $2.6 million and reported about $6.8 million in cash on hand.
A full picture of Trump’s war chest is not yet clear.
Trump is the runaway leader in polls of Republican candidates, and he has ample financial resources and fundraising ability. But his exact cash situation is complicated.
This month, the Trump campaign said the former president had raised more than $35 million in the second quarter through his joint fundraising committee, which then transfers the money to his campaign and to a political action committee.
His campaign’s filing Saturday reported a total of $17.7 million in receipts — which includes contributions, transfers and refunds — almost all of which came in transfers from the joint fundraising committee.
Where is the rest of the reported $35 million? The joint fundraising committee is not required to file its report until the end of the month. The New York Times reported last month that Trump has in recent months steered more of the money from the joint committee into the PAC, which he has used to pay his legal bills.
Pence joins the stragglers.
Bringing up the rear of the Republican pack are former Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, who raised about $500,000 in the second quarter, and Will Hurd, a former Texas congressman, who raised just $270,000.
While these long-shot candidates were not expected to raise tons of money, observers might have expected more from Pence, who reported just $1.2 million in contributions.
Pence has also spent very little — just $74,000, his filing shows. His campaign has not said whether he has reached the threshold of 40,000 unique donors, one of the requirements to appear on the Republican debate stage on Aug. 23.
Self-funding candidates are also burning through cash.
On Friday, the campaign of Gov. Doug Burgum of North Dakota, a wealthy former software engineer, filed its quarterly report, showing that he had raised $1.5 million in contributions and that he had lent $10 million to his campaign.
Burgum’s campaign spent more than $8.1 million last quarter, including an eye-popping $6 million in advertising, the filings show. He had $3.6 million in cash on hand at the end of the month.
Another Republican candidate, wealthy entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, reported $2.3 million in contributions last quarter, as well as $5 million in loans from himself. Ramaswamy has lent his campaign $15.25 million since he entered the race in February; he has said he will spend $100 million of his own money on his bid.
He may need to if he keeps up the spending. He spent more than $8 million from April through June, including $1.5 million on media placement and hundreds of thousands of dollars on travel.
Biden’s campaign remains very small.
It was already obvious that the Biden campaign was running a small operation, but exactly how lean became clear Saturday. As of the end of June, the president’s reelection effort had a total of four employees.
Two other people were listed on Biden’s campaign expenditures as consultants, one for communications and another as an accountant, but so far much of the still-nascent Biden campaign is being run by officials at the White House and in the Democratic National Committee.
Biden’s campaign, the Democratic National Committee and its affiliated fundraising committees reported a combined $77 million in cash on hand at the end of June after raising $72 million during the three-month reporting period. While the campaign has added a few employees since July 1, it plans to continue outsourcing large portions of its activity to the national committee.