Matea Gold and Robert Costa at the Washington Post update the Republican Establishment’s struggle against 2016 frontrunner Donald Trump–and its failure to attract big-money donors such as the Koch brothers or legacy operatives such as Karl Rove.
When Donald Trump landed in Ohio this week, he got a taste of the meager Republican super PAC efforts aimed at him: a 47-second Web video clipping together some of his most provocative comments and a small airplane trailing a banner proclaiming, “Ohioans Can’t Trust Trump.”
As the combative mogul enters his fifth month at the top of the GOP presidential field, attempts to derail him remain anemic, underfunded and unfocused — and they will probably stay that way until the Iowa caucuses in less than 10 weeks.
Most of the party’s financiers and top strategists are sitting on the sidelines. Many are reluctant to spend money against Trump after watching others fumble as they tried to handle his counterpunches. Others, citing past elections, remain confident that the race will eventually pivot away from him early next year.
The political network backed by the billionaire Koch brothers has no plans to take on Trump. American Crossroads, the super PAC co-founded by strategist Karl Rove, is steering clear and fixated on Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton instead. Right to Rise, the super PAC backing Jeb Bush, is not gearing up to attack Trump either. And major Republican donors, such as hedge-fund manager Paul Singer and the Ricketts family, have shown no interest in supporting the few organizations trying to undercut him.
“It is probably accurate to say there is very little money for these endeavors,” said Liz Mair, a Republican consultant who recently started an anti-Trump group called Trump Card. “Our group has donors and money, but it’s not like we have hundreds of people.”
Trump has reveled in the GOP’s hand-wringing over his candidacy and has taunted groups targeting him as a “disgrace.”
“I think people are surprised that, you know, they’re politicians and they’ve been doing this stuff all their lives. I haven’t. I’ve been a job producer,” Trump said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “I guess they can’t understand what’s happening.”
The absence of a big-money response to Trump is especially striking, given the mounting anxiety among GOP leaders about his lasting dominance in the race and his accumulation of incendiary statements. Some also are wary of trying to short-circuit him in a year when anger toward elites is boiling over.