Reviewing the third quarter presidential campaign filings, one finds that Donald Trump runs his presidential campaign much like he ran his casinos – in the red.

The Trump campaign ended the third quarter with $254,772.88 of cash on-hand, which is about 48 percent less than the $487,736.16 with which it started the quarter. Trump is therefore spending money at a faster clip than he’s raising it. Moreover, the campaign also has incurred more than $1.8 million of debts and obligations – no doubt, many of them to Trump himself (he’s billed the campaign $700,000 for the use of his jet). That leaves the campaign with negative cash, which should be a familiar position for the real estate magnate whose companies have declared bankruptcy four times.

What makes this particularly strange is that Trump has done relatively little actual campaigning. He’s gotten by thus far on an enormous amount of free media. He makes public appearances in large venues, but hasn’t done nearly the same amount of flesh pressing that the other candidates have. His campaign expenses thus should be fairly lean. Yet he’s burning through money at a fairly brisk rate.

That’s but one of the treasure trove of tidbits one can glean from the most recent filings, made available last night from the Federal Elections Commission. While most media reports focus on how much each candidate raised, the far more interesting question is how much each campaign has. By comparing the reported cash on-hand at the beginning and end of each quarter, you can see which candidates are making progress this early in the season, and which are fading into oblivion.

This bit of analysis excludes the campaigns of Chris Christie, John Kasich, Lawrence Lessig, Scott Walker and Jim Webb, all of whom filed disclosures for the first time and thus all of whom officially started the quarter at $0. It also excludes Lincoln Chafee, who has yet to file a disclosure for either the second or third quarter, and Jim Gilmore (as far as anyone can tell, he’s still in the race, despite little evidence to that effect), who hasn’t filed a third-quarter disclosure, but who had $3,545 at the end of the second quarter.

Looking at the gainers, it looks very much like the top of the polls, with the notable absence of Trump. The big winners in the third quarter were Bernie Sanders and Ben Carson, both of whom more than doubled their cash on-hand, and Carly Fiorina, whose campaign coffers swelled more than fivefold.


At the other end of the spectrum, we find the decliners – those who are spending money faster than they can raise it. Not surprisingly, topping the list is Rick Perry, who already has suspended his campaign. But just behind him is former New York Gov. George Pataki, whose campaign had less than $14,000 at the end of the third quarter and is thus, effectively, over. And then there are the campaigns of Bobby Jindal, Rand Paul and, yes, Donald Trump, whose cash on-hand each fell by roughly half over the course of the quarter.


When you then subtract the debts owed by these campaigns (in Santorum’s case, including debts incurred during his 2012 run, as both that and a separate 2016 campaign committee both remain active) you get a picture that looks like this:

net campaign

Thus, we see that, in fact, George Pataki and Rick Santorum are already bust. But they are just a little in the red. The Donald is YOOOGELY in the red.

Looking just at campaign committee cash on-hand, the two Democratic front-runners are way on top in the money race, both with more than double the resources of the closest Republican, Ted Cruz. That lead changes significantly when we turn to the next bit of disclosure – the independent expenditure committees (aka “Super PACs“) that have been established to support specific candidate campaigns. Though Super PACs must be run independent of the formal campaigns, for a number of the candidates, they serve as the primary fundraising apparatus.

Through Oct. 15, here are the funds raised and expended by Super PACs devoted to declared candidates. Thus, we are excluding those that have been established either for potential candidates like Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren, or for those who already have dropped out, like Rick Perry and Scott Walker. There are no Super PACs identified as supporting Jim Webb, Lawrence Lessig or Lincoln Chafee.

Super PACs

You can see there that even the Trump Super PAC is in the red, spending more than $60,000, when it hasn’t actually raised any money to-date. This also is where the commanding fundraising lead of Jeb Bush becomes evident. Bush-aligned Super PACs have more cash at their disposal than those of the next 10 best-funded candidates (Cruz, Rubio, Clinton, Carson, Christie, Huckabee, Paul, Fiorina, Jindal and Graham) combined.

Putting it all together – which isn’t entirely fair, as the campaigns can’t draw directly from the Super PACs – the money race as of today looks something like this.

money race

That’s right, when it comes to campaign cash, poll-leading billionaire Trump trails the likes of Lawrence Lessig and Jim Gilmore. Chew on that for a moment.

It should be noted that Trump obviously could alleviate these problems simply by writing a big check to the campaign himself. That he hasn’t thus far done that is telling. It suggests he’s still waiting to see how things progress. If they go badly, it’s certainly within character for him to walk away.

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