By Jim Ellis
May 6, 2016 — Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) departing the 2016 presidential campaign on successive days unofficially awards Donald Trump with the Republican presidential nomination. Though it will still take the New York real estate mogul until the final primary day (June 7) to commit the 1,237 delegates he needs for a first-ballot nomination victory, he is, nevertheless, now beginning a general election campaign effort against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Cruz’s abrupt about-face on previous statements that he would not leave the race is a bit curious. With the ebbs and flows of this campaign, it would not have been surprising to see yet another switch in campaign momentum. In mid-April, for example, it was Trump who was floundering and on the political ropes just before the New York and eastern regional primaries launched him back on the final course toward the nomination.
It is clear, however, that what looked to be coming Cruz winner-take-all victories in Nebraska, South Dakota, and possibly Montana, along with surely accumulating more delegates in the remaining proportional states of Oregon, Washington and New Mexico, the Cruz campaign analysts obviously came to the conclusion that they could not overcome Trump.
Either in California where the front runner could win enough delegates to clinch, or in the succeeding period between the final primary day and the July 18 national convention commencement, it became clear to Cruz and his people that Trump had ample opportunity and probability to secure a first-ballot victory before the convention began.
Much attention has been paid to whom Trump will now select as his vice presidential nominee. He has already assembled a selection committee, of which Dr. Ben Carson is a member, to provide advice. But, there are bigger short-term financial and logistical decisions looming.
As the presumptive nominee, Trump can now virtually assume functional control of the Republican National Committee in accordance with election coordination laws. One of the major functions here would be to begin constructing a suitable general election voter turnout operation to compete with the Democrats’ superior grassroots programs.
Originally, 2016 had the precept of becoming the largest voter participation election in American history. Now, with two presumed nominees saddled with some of the highest unfavorable ratings of any pair of candidates at the beginning of a national contest, turnout may well dip. If so, then having a nationwide grassroots operation becomes much more important. The Republicans have not waged a strong precinct effort since the 2004 George W. Bush re-election effort. If the Trump campaign/RNC operation doesn’t construct a functional apparatus in a short amount of time, they will concede an important advantage to the Democrats.
Trump campaign finance will completely change, as well. In 2012, Mitt Romney, from his campaign committee alone, spent more than $483 million. President Obama, again not counting outside Super PACs, expended almost three-quarters of a billion dollars.
At this point, Trump has disbursed just over $50 million on his presidential effort, approximately $36 million as a loan from himself. This may be more than most people would have guessed. Though claiming he was entirely self-funding, he did accept more than $12 million from contributors, $9.2 million of which came in the form of small, unitemized donations.
Now in general election mode, Trump no longer says he will self-finance and is already taking steps to organize a massive fundraising organization. He will need one. Since he blew through the matching fund spending limits in the primaries, Trump does not qualify to receive federal taxpayer financed general election funds. Therefore, he is left with no option other than to finance his national campaign in the traditional manner.
Logistically and structurally the Trump for President campaign, now with the Republican nomination secured, is about to undergo a radical transformation.