In late April, less than two weeks after officially announcing a primary challenge to President Donald Trump, Fox News asked former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld how he hoped to compete against the fundraising juggernaut of a power-consolidating incumbent. "I've just spent the last week in New York fundraising—in the millions, but not $25 million—but I just started," Weld said. "And I'm confident based on the response we're getting we will be adequately funded in New Hampshire and beyond."
If Weld is being adequately funded, it's not in the millions. ABC News reported Wednesday night on the presidential candidate's second-quarter fundraising numbers, and they're grim—just $688,000 from 7,000 donors, plus an additional $181,000 from Weld himself. That compares to a combined $105 million from the Trump re-election campaign and the Republican National Committee, which have undergone an unprecedented merger.
How paltry is $688,000? This paltry: Montana Gov. Steve Bullock—who entered the Democratic race one month after Weld, polls nationally at around 0.4 percent, and couldn't even qualify to be one of 20 Democrats on the initial debate stage—raised $2 million this quarter. There will be plenty of other cruel-looking comparisons over the coming days as candidates prepare for the July 15 Federal Elections Committee reporting deadline.
Those 7,000 donors are a puny total too. In order to qualify for the second round of televised debates at the end of July, Democratic candidates have to report donations from 65,000 people, with the number doubling to 130,000 for round three. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is leading the pack so far in reported second quarter donations (as we await figures from Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris), saw 284,000 individuals contribute to his $24.8 million cash haul from April to June.
Weld senior adviser Stuart Stevens insisted to ABC that the campaign is "satisfied" with the fundraising. "[We're] confident that we will have, from all sources, the resources necessary to communicate via both broadcast and digital means, in all key states, Gov. Weld's message that America deserves better than it is getting today," Stevens said. Maybe.
But the math looks bleak for Weld elsewhere, too. In the seven national head-to-head polls taken since he joined the race, the former Libertarian Party vice presidential nominee has trailed Trump by an average of 71.5 percentage points. Meanwhile, per Gallup, the president has enjoyed approval ratings among Republicans of between 87 percent and 91 percent all year.
To this, Weld fires back with a comparison of his own: Pat Buchanan vs. George H.W. Bush. The late former president in July 1991 was still enjoying approval ratings of above 70 percent. The former Nixon speechwriter, cable TV squabbler, and original paleoconservative jumped into the primary race in December 1991. His first two and a half months of fundraising, ABC reported, brought $875,000 ($2.3 million in today's money) from just over 2,000 donors.
Weld, who campaigned for Bush in New Hampshire, is fond of pointing out that Buchanan dealt the incumbent an eventually fatal blow with his shocking 37 percent finish in that state in 1992. The campaign is eagerly squinting at Granite State polls in hopes of detecting momentum toward the "Buchanan benchmark." And there are still seven months between now and the New Hampshire primary.
Still, there have been three head-to-head polls this year in that state, located practically in Weld's back yard, and Trump so far is stomping his challenger, 75 percent to 16 percent. Unless the Boston Brahmin turns some of his fundraising and poll numbers around, he'll be striking historians not as a reverse-angle Pat Buchanan but as the second coming of Pete McCloskey.