Republican front-runner Donald Trump seems to be hoping not only to “Make America Great Again,” but also to Make Trucker Hats Great Again. The Trump presidential campaign spent far more money on his signature embroidered hats and campaign T-shirts during the third quarter than it did on anything else except airfare -- but Trump is not alone in large expenditures.
As presidential campaigns released their quarterly contributions and expenses filings Thursday, many campaigns revealed that they have been spending a significant portion of their donations so far. While fundraising totals are a good measure of how much support a candidate is able to drum up, their cash on hand may be a better indicator of who is ready to take on the next leg of the primary race.
Trump, who has boasted about self-financing his run for the presidency, raised $3.9 million during the third quarter, most of which came from sources other than himself. This number puts him above many of his opponents, but still far below the field’s top fundraisers. He has raised just $5.8 million total since the beginning of his campaign, and the tycoon has spent 96 percent of those funds. During the third quarter, $749,000 went to items listed as hats, “T-shirts/hats” or “T-shirts/hats/decals.” He now has $254,000 cash on hand, which is much less than many other candidates.
Democratic front-runners Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders easily take first place, having raised $29.9 million and $26.2 million respectively. They are followed by Ben Carson, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, while the rest of the candidates all raised under $10 million.
Clinton and Sanders similarly top the list for cash on hand -- the former secretary of state has $33 million going forward and Sanders holds $21.1 million. The candidate with the next largest sum of cash on hand is Cruz, who has barely half of Sanders’ total at $13.8 million.
Bush took in $13.4 million last quarter and leads the Republican field in total money raised ($133.3 million), but he has also spent a significant amount of war chest. His end-of-quarter reports showed that the one-time front-runner has just $10.3 million in cash on hand. In contrast, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who has been gaining in popularity in recent weeks as Bush seems to fade, raised just $5.7 million during the third quarter and has $11 million in the bank. Rubio’s campaign touted this number Thursday, criticizing other campaigns for failing to save as much as their candidate.
“Thanks to smart budgeting and fiscal discipline, Marco Rubio for President started October with more money in the bank than Jeb Bush for President and most other campaigns,” Rubio’s campaign said in a statement Thursday.
The statement included ways Rubio has saved money, which included buying office furniture from Craigslist, traveling on budget airlines and using Uber for ground transportation. Rubio took 330 Uber rides during the third quarter, which amounted to a little over $5,000. In the second quarter, Rubio spent another $1,000 on Uber rides.
Bush similarly used Uber rides as a frequent form of transportation last quarter. He took 335 Uber rides, totalling just over $7,000 and spent nearly $5,000 on non-Uber cab rides. While Bush kicked off his campaign near the end of the second quarter, he spent nearly another $3,000 on Uber and cab rides between June 15 and June 30. These numbers mean Bush has spent around $8,300 on Uber rides and $6,300 on other cab rides since he began his candidacy.
Their use of Uber cars differs from the practices of Clinton’s campaign, which is known to frequently travel on private planes and has racked up other considerable expenses in the early months of her campaign. Earlier this month, her campaign reported that it had spent 90 percent of the money it raised over the summer, giving it one of the highest burn rates of any of the candidates.
Still, even candidates with lower burn rates, such as Clinton’s rival Sanders, have made large purchases on small items like T-shirts, bumper stickers and hats. Sanders, who has used 35 percent of the money he has raised so far, spent $3 million on campaign paraphernalia during the third quarter.
As the candidates move forward toward the next round of debates and the approaching early primary contests, they will need to keep up -- and in some cases step up -- the fundraising pace in order to continue operating at this kind of level. Fortunately for some of them, Republicans have another debate coming up Oct. 28, which could give candidates a chance to shine once again and pick up some post-debate enthusiasm cash.