What if Donald Trump skipped every future Republican presidential debate? The idea is apparently not out of the question for the New York billionaire, as he told reporters Tuesday he is proud of the amount of money he raised for military veterans last week when he skipped the Fox News Republican debate in Iowa to host his own event.
The GOP front-runner admitted that his choice to skip the debate just days before the Iowa caucuses may have contributed to his loss to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, but he maintained that not winning was worth it for the veterans.
“If I had it to do again, I would do the exact same thing and the reason is, do you know why?” Trump said Tuesday during a news conference in Milford, New Hampshire. “Because I raised $6 million for the vets in one hour. So if I took a second place instead of a first place and could give the vets $6 million, I'll do that all day long.”
If the Donald is so keen on raising money for America’s veterans, it stands to reason that he might want to spend more of his time helping them out and less time wrangling with his fellow GOP candidates on stages across the country. And with the way the Republican presidential race is going, it would not be surprising for one of his opponents to call him out on this.
So what would happen if Trump actually spent all the time he has used at debates on fundraising instead?
Well, to start, he said his one-hour fundraiser last week brought in $6 million, with $1 million coming from his own checkbook. If we keep the math at the most basic level, Trump would have raised $42 million for veterans had he held a similar event during each of the seven Republican presidential debates so far.
However, most of the GOP debates have lasted at least two hours, with the September debate running a full three hours and a few others coming in closer to two and a half. If the Donald had spent all of that time fundraising for the veterans, he would have brought in $98 million.
But that’s not even all of it. There are still several more debates to go, not including those during the general election campaign. (For the purposes of this exercise, we’ll assume that Trump does not end up the Republican Party’s nominee for president.)
If he had chosen to sit out every debate that has already happened and did not participate in future debates, instead spending his time giving to the vets, he would raise $158 million. That could probably pay for at least some of his plan to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Of course, this analysis does not take into account that donations probably would decline over time as donors at Trump's events max out their wallets. But the Donald seems confident in his fundraising abilities, and this is all hypothetical, so this assumes he would manage to keep his donations consistent.
Still, doubts have been raised about Trump’s real veteran fundraising efforts. At first, some veterans criticized him for using them as political pawns and refused to accept his money. Then, questions were raised because the money from Trump’s Iowa event went to his foundation and not directly to groups helping veterans.
The Trump campaign said it was giving the money to 22 veterans' organizations, effectively putting to rest many of last week’s questions. But some of the receiving organizations still expressed hesitation about the money’s source, CBS News reported Friday.
The next Republican presidential debate is scheduled for Saturday in Manchester, New Hampshire, just ahead of the Granite State’s primary. With Trump now focused on making up for his loss in Iowa, it remains to be seen whether he will return to the debate stage or seek to Make Veteran Fundraising Great Again.