Trump’s cash machine grows stronger as Dems prepare for primaries

Facing a crowded field of Democrats clamoring to oust him, President Donald Trump raised more in the first three months of this year than in any other fundraising period since he entered the White House as he builds a re-election apparatus without any modern precedent.

Trump raised $30.3 million during the January-to-March fundraising quarter and spent just $8.8 million, a sharp drop from his campaign’s heavy spending at the end of 2018 when he crisscrossed the country, working to boost Republican congressional candidates in the midterm elections. The fundraising surge and curtailed spending left the President atop a nearly $40.8 million campaign war chest, a report filed Monday with the Federal Election Commission shows.

In an unprecedented move, Trump’s aides also have moved to consolidate their control over the national party, giving them sway over the spending decisions of the Republican National Committee. Taken together with the war chests of the party and an affiliated committee, Trump and the party started April with more than $80 million in cash reserves.

No Democrat comes close to Trump’s fundraising.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, making his second bid for the presidency, outraised the Democratic field with $18.2 million, filings show. He started April with $26.6 million in remaining cash, scattered among three campaign accounts, according to his campaign and Federal Election Commission filings.

“Trump’s war chest guarantees this will be the most expensive presidential election in history,” Dan Eberhart, an Arizona-based oil investor and Republican fundraiser said Monday night.

Trump’s decision to start early — he filed his re-election paperwork on the day he was sworn into office — “has given him a huge edge over Democrats and anyone else,” Eberhart added.

On Monday, former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld officially kicked off his longshot bid challenge Trump for the GOP nomination.

While Trump is free to raise spend money on his re-election efforts, Democrats face a long slog.

The early numbers show there are no breakout fundraising stars — poised to vanquish all other rivals — in the Democratic field.

Despite an early lead, Sanders’ haul didn’t set any records. And other candidates — notably California Sen. Kamala Harris at $12 million, former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke at what his campaign says is a $9.4 million haul and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg with nearly $7.1 million — either have raised more than enough money to compete or show strong fundraising potential.

During the course of his presidency, Trump has spent heavily on digital advertising to reach potential donors and supporters and online advertising remained a top expense during the early months of the year. Another big line item: Legal fees, at slightly more than $1.6 million — or nearly 18% of the campaign’s total spending during the first quarter.

CNN’s David Wright contributed to the report.