At Real Clear Politics, I explain why Donald Trump would get outspent in a general election against Hillary Clinton. She can be expected to raise at least $1.5 billion between her campaign and allied outside groups. He is not liquid enough to match her through self-funding: He may be a billionaire, but he has only about $300 million in cash.
His campaign has already signaled it won’t self-fund in the general. But as he’s a year behind is assembling a finance team, the only way he has any chance of matching Clinton dollar for dollar is through super PACs, and that’s assuming there are enough billionaire donors willing to bankroll them.
Trump is peddling a line that he won’t be beholden to special interest donors, going as far to say: “I have disavowed all super PAC’s, requested the return of all donations made to said PAC’s, and I am calling on all presidential candidates to do the same.” If he’s the nominee, he will have a choice: flip-flop on Super PACs or get wildly outspent.
I would bet on the former: consistency is not the particular hobgoblin of Trump’s little mind.
But such a flip-flop will be revealing. The billionaire candidate shtick is always “I can’t be bought,” hoping to ease concerns of wealth putting him out of touch with the concerns of average Americans. Trump will have the worst of all worlds. He will be pegged as out of touch (“wages too high”). He will be awash in money from fellow rich people with angles of their own. And he will have lied about running a self-funded campaign beholden to no one.
If Trump is to have any hope of winning, he will need to be able to pick off former Obama voters in swing states. One weapon would have been the notion that he is the perfect tool to dismantle a political system awash in campaign cash. But that weapon is about to become disarmed.