President Trump is already delivering impressive fundraising stats in both dollar amounts — a self-reported $300 million in the first quarter, almost $12 million more than the leading Democrat — and the number of small donors — 99 percent of first-quarter donations were $200 or less. Now, an outside group, the America First Action super-PAC, hopes to boost the president’s reelection chances with $300 million to spend in battleground states.
The PAC has targeted Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina, and Georgia as the states in which it will distribute its funds. All six of the states, save for Georgia, constitute Obama-Trump swaps, and all have at least 15 votes in the Electoral College. “We’re going to alleviate the burden on these six states that are must-wins. They are the quickest path to the Electoral College,” AFA communications director Kelly Sadler said on Thursday. The group reportedly has plans to run ads that highlight Trump’s achievements and attack the eventual Democratic nominee as well as — a little more ominously — a plan to collect data to “target messages for narrowly tailored demographic groups it believes will propel Trump to victory,” per The Hill.
America First Action is led by former World Wrestling Entertainment executive Linda McMahon, who became the group’s chair in March. McMahon, who ran as the Republican Senate candidate in 2010 and 2012 in Connecticut, stepped down from her executive-branch position as head of the Small Business Administration in favor of the fundraising role.
The group hopes that McMahon, who has deep ties to the moneyed Republican Establishment, can deliver the big-ticket donors that Trump largely missed out on in 2016 — owing to the whole reviled-by-the-GOP-Establishment thing. As Politico reports, “Republican officials say [they] will need to raise roughly $1 billion” to defeat the Democratic challenger. In 2016, Trump and allied groups raised around $600 million, in addition to media attention valued at $5 billion.
Considering how much the Republican Establishment has come around to its man in the White House, the lofty goal could be feasible. “Folks who wouldn’t even take a meeting with us last cycle are meeting with us,” America First Action president Brian Walsh told Politico. The PAC also enjoys a new distinction as the only “approved outside non-campaign group” by Trump’s reelection effort. That designation was reportedly established as a method of setting AFA apart from a group run by former campaign official David Bossie, who may be scamming older donors, according to a report from the Campaign Legal Center: Bossie’s group, the Presidential Coalition, has raised $15.4 million over the past two years to elect Trump-friendly candidates, but has spent just 3 percent of its funds on such actions.
To raise the $300 million — nearly a third of the $1 billion mark purportedly needed for a Trump win — America First Action will first have to ditch the reputation it established in 2018, when the group promised to raise $100 million but only pulled in around $39 million. If the midterm numbers have any bearing on its 2020 fundraising goals, that $300 million mark would equate to $117 million.