Trump's Run For President Isn't Going To End Any Time Soon

Photo: Rex/REX USA.
Back in 2012, the amount of money raised and spent in the pursuit of the presidency reached an all-time high: around $7 billion, according to a Federal Election Commission estimate. But with more than a year to go before 2016 ballots are cast, one candidate is already ensuring that there will be a new number in the record books when it comes to money spent on a campaign: Donald Trump.

At the Iowa State Fair over the weekend, the mogul took questions from reporters on everything from his immigration-reform stance to the Iran nuclear deal — and, of course, the subject of his campaign budget quickly came up. When a reporter asked a question about his spending, Trump quickly brushed it off with one word: "Irrelevant," before adding that he draws a $400 million annual salary. He also said that, if it came down to it, he would be willing to spend $1 billion of his own money on his quest for the White House.

Trump isn't the first candidate to spend oodles of his own cash on his presidential bid. During the 1992 electoral season, Ross Perot spent $12 million on his campaign, and the practice has been replicated by other wealthy office seekers since, including Michael Bloomberg, who spent $102 million seeking his third term as mayor of New York City.

Even without Trump as the GOP frontrunner, the 2016 elections were always likely to be the most costly to date. "Every presidential election is more expensive than the previous one," Candice Nelson, a professor and the academic director of the Campaign Management Institute at American University, told Refinery29. "This is no exception."

The fact that Trump would not be in the pocket of Super PACS and lobbyists is being positioned as a positive — and, in some ways, it no doubt is. But his flippant attitude about funding reveals a larger issue within Trump's overall campaign strategy: "It’s one thing to have the money, it’s another thing to know how to spend it," Nelson explains.

As of now, Trump doesn't have a stellar track record when it comes to advisers; in the past couple of months, two staff members have made headlines for less than flattering social-media accounts and outrageous statements to media members. It's clear that — even with a billion dollars — the candidate has his work cut out for him, and part of that work is to surround himself with the right people.

Another problem with Trump's billion-dollar pledge: Saying that money is irrelevant oversimplifies the act of running for president, in general. The presidency is far more than a pay-to-play position, and though Trump has been talking a good generalist game — tapping vaguely into the minds of a high-potential voting demographic — he also hasn't been especially specific about what he intends to accomplish.

Even his recent release of a plan for immigration reform was less than six pages in length. His ability to distill complex issues into compelling one-liners might be attractive to voters looking to zero in on solutions, but it also comes with an eyebrow-raising element of hubris: If solving the greatest crises within America was as simple as he portrays it to be, it stands to reason that progress on major issues would have been considerably more swift.

"He’s tapping into the dissatisfaction of the American public about Congress and the presidency, saying, 'I’ll make things happen,'" Nelson says. "But he doesn't say anything about how he's going to get anything done, and at a certain point people are going to want to know that."
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