GOP Donors Who Scorned Trump in 2016 Are Giving Him Big Bucks in 2020

The Never Trumpers, those Republicans who pledged never to align themselves with the President, are jumping ship. An early April edition of a Gallup tracking poll found 89% of Republican respondents support Donald Trump. The trend continued this week, as Politico reported that a number of wealthy Republicans who declined to support Trump in the 2016 election “are going all in for him in 2020, throwing their weight behind a newly created fundraising drive that’s expected to dump tens of millions into his reelection coffers.”

This fundraising effort, Politico writer Alex Isenstadt continued, involves former donors to George W. Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney. It is also modeled after the Pioneers network that helped lead Bush to victory in 2000, and will be formally announced on May 7, when, Isenstadt writes, “well-connected Republican fundraisers from around the country descend on Washington for a closed-door event with Trump 2020 aides.”

The fundraising push, Isenstadt observes, “illustrates how Trump, who once took a sledgehammer to rivals for their supposed fealty to big donors, has come to rely on a GOP establishment he once repudiated.” In addition, it also shows how much the top levels of the Republican fundraising world “has come to accept and accommodate a president it once scorned.”

One prominent Republican fundraiser, Roy Bailey, told Politico that over 150 people have signed to the Trump Victory program, including funders who had previously, even vehemently, rejected Trump in 2016: “I’ve had a couple of people that in 2016, they just weren’t on board with candidate Trump at all and they said, ‘Look, Roy, he has won me over. I’m all in,’” Bailey added.

Jack Oliver, who helped lead fundraising for both George W. Bush in 2000 and his brother Jeb Bush in 2016, is another longtime Republican who came around to the Trump effort after not participating in the 2016 general election. He told Politico, “I think you’ll have a significant number of Bush and Romney veterans that were on the sidelines or didn’t get overly involved in 2016 but will be involved in the 2020 campaign.”

As Isenstadt points out, some of this apparent change of heart is a result of the “fear of a Democratic 2020 field that includes liberal figures like Bernie Sanders.”

Geoff Verhoff, a lobbyist for Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, echoed Oliver, saying that supporting Trump “is a pretty easy decision for a lot of people. …From a policy standpoint, there’s virtually nothing they disagree with, then layer on top of that the choice that the other side is presenting to the country and it’s a no-brainer.”

The reversal was at least a few months in the making and is reflected in Republican punditry. In an October 2018 interview, pollster Lee Miringoff told The Hill that Never Trumpers “have vanished in the Republican Party. They’re extinct.” In February, conservative writer and Fox News contributor Erick Erickson, who previously wrote a piece with the headline “Why I Will Not Vote for Donald Trump. Ever,” in 2016, came back exactly three years to announce, on his site The Resurgent, that “I will vote for Donald Trump and Mike Pence. …They’ve earned my vote.”

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