WASHINGTON ― Donald Trump hoarded $94 million this election in his various political committees as his anointed candidates lost the Senate for Republicans in tight races where that money might have made the difference between winning and losing.
“We didn’t lose because of Trump’s rhetoric. We lost because Trump is cheap,” said one Trump adviser, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “He left them all hanging dry…. It gave a free shot for all the right-wing pundits to turn on him.”
Aides to the former president, who attempted a coup after losing his own reelection bid in 2020 but is expected to announce another White House campaign on Tuesday, did not respond to HuffPost queries.
Trump likely ended the midterm elections with $94,075,872 unspent, according to a HuffPost analysis of the latest available Federal Election Commission filings, despite claiming in thousands of fundraising emails and texts from his Save America “leadership PAC” that he was working to win back control of the House and Senate for Republicans.
“Trump had it and didn’t give it to them,” said Scott Jennings, a GOP consultant close to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who pointed out Blake Masters’ recent complaint on Fox News that McConnell had not helped his losing Senate campaign in Arizona. “Why is Masters asking McConnell to carry him around in a Baby Bjorn when Trump wouldn’t?”
Mike Murphy, a longtime GOP consultant and a Trump critic since his 2016 presidential campaign, said the party would have been better off if Trump had simply absconded with the money.
“That money could’ve paid to build a nice Saddam-style vulgar palace somewhere in South America where he could’ve escaped to and thereby saved the Republican Party from the deadly ballot box cancer that is known as Trump,” Murphy said.
In the end, Trump’s much-publicized burst of spending late in the campaign totaled just $15 million through his new Make America Great Again Inc. super PAC in five states: $3.7 million in Arizona, $3.4 million in Georgia, $2 million in Nevada, $2.4 million in Ohio and $3.5 million in Pennsylvania.
Which means that in none of those key races did Trump spend as much as the $4.3 million he shelled out in a failed attempt to defeat Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp in the Republican primary. Kemp had angered Trump by refusing to overturn his loss to Democrat Joe Biden in Georgia in 2020.
In contrast, McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund super PAC spent $38.4 million in Georgia, $25.6 million in Nevada, $32.5 million in Ohio and $47.5 million in Pennsylvania, for a total of $144 million in those states. He did not spend anything in Arizona, but he did spend $80 million in three other competitive states where Trump spent nothing: North Carolina, New Hampshire and Wisconsin.
Masters lost to Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Kelly by 5 percentage points. Mehmet Oz lost to Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman in Pennsylvania by 4 points. Adam Laxalt lost to incumbent Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto by just 1 point in Nevada. And Herschel Walker finished 1 point behind incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock in Georgia, but the two will now face off in a Dec. 6 runoff.
It is impossible to know for sure whether those races, which in total saw more than $200 million in GOP spending, might have gone their way had Trump spent all he had on more advertising or get-out-the-vote efforts.
“To state the obvious, money matters, and a little money can matter a lot in close races, of which there are a gracious plenty this year,” said Mac Stipanovich, a lifelong Florida Republican consultant who left the party when Trump took it over. “If Trump had spent his money and saved some of his acolytes from defeat, he might not be facing the insurrection in the GOP ranks that he must deal with now, which will end up costing him more than he saved.”
One former senior Trump White House official who spoke on condition of anonymity said he doubts that money was the issue. Rather, it was the candidates who won Trump’s support on the condition they help spread his lies about the 2020 presidential election being “stolen” from him.
“If you nominate candidates who voters find unappealing, the money doesn’t really matter,” the former official said.
Trump since the start of 2021 has raised $150.7 million through four committees but mainly through his so-called leadership PAC that he can use for pretty much any purpose he chooses.
In addition to the $15 million he spent in the Senate races, Trump also spent $6.9 million on a “revenge” tour against Republicans who crossed him, with the bulk of that against Kemp in Georgia.
A total of $650,000 went to Wyoming Values, a committee created to defeat that state’s sole House member, Republican Rep. Liz Cheney, who has become a leader in the fight to punish Trump for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection.
This spring, Trump gave $1 million to American Leadership Action, which at the time was attacking Republican rivals to Oz, Trump’s endorsed candidate in the Pennsylvania Senate GOP primary, and another million to Our American Century, which also was attacking opponents of Oz as well as trying to defeat Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), who criticized Trump’s incitement of the U.S. Capitol riot but in the end did not vote to impeach him.
A total of 150 GOP House and Senate candidates, meanwhile, received $5,000 each in their campaign accounts, the most that leadership PACs can directly contribute to a candidate.
By way of comparison, Trump spent $11 million staging rallies for himself around the country over the past 20 months, but that total does not include the final burst of rallies he held in the closing weekend of the midterm campaign. He spent $8.5 million more paying a host of lawyers to defend him in courtrooms in Atlanta, New York City, Washington, D.C., and Florida. That figure includes a single $3 million payment on Aug. 30 to the Critton, Luttier and Coleman firm in West Palm Beach, Florida.
The firm declined to say why they got the money, but the timing coincides with the hiring of Chris Kise, a former Florida solicitor general, who, according to a source close to Trump, demanded an upfront payment of $3 million. Kise also did not respond to HuffPost queries.
Trump is under investigation by the Department of Justice for his incitement of the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol, including the scheme to submit to the National Archives fraudulent slates of electors from states where Biden narrowly won as a way to pressure then-Vice President Mike Pence to award Trump a second term. A separate probe is looking at Trump’s removal of highly classified documents from the White House and subsequent refusal to hand them over, even in defiance of a subpoena.
In addition to the federal criminal investigations, a Georgia prosecutor is looking at Trump and his allies’ attempts to coerce state officials into falsely declaring him the winner in swing states.
Trump, despite losing the 2020 election by 7 million votes nationally and by 306-232 in the Electoral College, became the first president in more than two centuries of elections to refuse to hand over power peacefully. His incitement of the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol ― his last-ditch attempt to remain in office ― led to the deaths of five people, including one police officer, the injury of 140 officers and four police suicides.