Former President Donald Trump’s strong position in GOP primary polls is dissuading several big donors from investing heavily in other Republican candidates. Key business magnates such as Paul Singer, Ken Griffin, Joe Ricketts, and Stephen Schwarzman, who spent enormous sums trying to hinder Trump’s rise in the 2016 primary, seem hesitant to make similar moves this time.
Although several strong contenders such as Ron DeSantis, Tim Scott, Nikki Haley, and Chris Christie have already managed to secure substantial donations earlier in the race, the previous candidate pool of 2016, which included Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, and Ted Cruz, received more financial support from business leaders. As Ken Spain, a veteran GOP strategist, succinctly put it, “It’s becoming clear the cavalry’s not coming. The donor community has come to recognize the strength of Trump and the difficulty in dislodging a major part of the base from him. You’re tilting at windmills if you try.”
Rob Collins, aligned with Sen. Tim Scott, warned donors against spending extensively against Trump, stating that such efforts would amount to “wasting money.” This sentiment is supported by recent fundraising figures, which showed Trump’s campaign drawing in $25 million in the third quarter, notably ahead of DeSantis’s $11 million.
A trend seems to be emerging wherein significant GOP funding is expected to be channeled toward the Senate races rather than the presidential contest. While large donors still support candidates like DeSantis, including a generous donation from Richard Uihlein and his wife and significant backing for Scott from Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison, the general donor sentiment appears to be wary.
A recent meeting between aides to DeSantis, Scott, and Haley and a GOP donor group led by Singer revealed skepticism about any candidate outpacing Trump. After the initial primaries, some donors are considering supporting front-runners, but insiders doubt the effectiveness of such a strategy.
Major players like Ken Griffin have remained undecided on their support, emphasizing the importance of focusing on broader solutions for America’s future. The Koch political operation has already invested approximately $16 million to counter Trump, but Trump’s standing has consistently improved over the year. This dynamic contrasts with the 2016 primary, which witnessed much earlier and stronger financial engagement for candidates.
To provide a snapshot, during the last heated primary, Singer and Griffin committed $5 million to Rubio’s campaign, starting in early 2015. Ricketts and his spouse contributed around $5 million to Scott Walker, and Schwarzman supported Bush with a $100,000 donation.
After his Florida gubernatorial win, Ron DeSantis began this election cycle with a strong financial footing. Major donors, including Griffin, praised the leadership of the Florida Governor and stated that the country would benefit if DeSantis was the president. Governor DeSantis had announced his presidential campaign in May. Still, his popularity among donors has decreased since then, and he has been falling further behind Trump in the polls in recent months.