Mitt Romney weighs in on the Republican presidential race last spring. Donald Trump has outraised Romney in just three of 93 industries tracked by OpenSecrets.org, according to data going through the end of August 2016 for Trump and the same time four years earlier for the previous GOP nominee. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
By: Jack Noland
Donald Trump and Mitt Romney may not have much in common, and the 2012 GOP presidential nominee has made no bones about his visceral dislike of the pugilistic businessman who is carrying his party's banner this time around. When it comes to campaign fundraising, though, there's a lot of overlap in their pools of donors.
Through August, Trump's donors this cycle and Romney's four years ago came from many of the same interest groups. Their campaigns both counted the real estate industry, health professionals and lawyers among their top five donor industries, and retirees were No. 1 for each of them.
The difference is that Trump has raised just a fraction of Romney's take from each industry, and lags far behind his predecessor in overall fundraising.
Retirees normally are at or near the top of candidates' donor lists. America's retired people are campaign finance juggernauts: They contributed more than any other group to both Romney and President Barack Obama in 2012, giving a total $126.6 million to presidential candidates over the course of the cycle.
Still, while they're tops on Trump's roster, by the end of August they'd given only $14.5 million, less than half the $36.1 million they had donated to Romney at the same point in 2012. Hillary Clinton, this year's Democratic nominee, had raised around $45.2 million from seniors as September began, more than either Romney or Trump -- although retirees rank second, not first, among her leading donor industries.
Wall Street ranked second for Romney; for Trump, it ranked only seventh. By the end of August 2012, Romney's campaign had pulled in more than $18.7 million from the securities and investment industry, while Trump's had raised a breathtakingly small amount from the normally high-rolling employees and PACs in the field in the same time frame this cycle: just $541,780.
Clinton had received more than $7.2 million in Wall Street funds.
For Trump, employees and PACs in our miscellaneous business category -- chemicals, textiles, retail, restaurants and a hodgepodge of other enterprises -- gave Trump his second-highest yield, roughly $1.5 million. While the industry came in only seventh on his list, Romney had raised $4.85 million from its members.
While Trump is perhaps best known as a real estate magnate, even employees and PACs in that industry weren't as generous to Trump through August as they had been to Romney. The 2016 nominee has collected more than $1.5 million from that interest area, while Romney had taken in a full $10.7 million by the same point.
Rounding out the top five for both candidates were contributions from health professionals and lawyers, plus their related PACs, but again, Trump's numbers pale: $1.1 million and $635,000, respectively, compared with Romney's $6.6 million and $9.5 million.
Overall, in fact, there were only three industries -- out of the 93 used by CRP to classify contributions -- that have given Trump more than they gave Romney through August. But the three -- industrial unions, transportation unions and miscellaneous unions -- provided mere pocket change to each candidate, combining to give Trump $4,829 and Romney $500.
Trump has been far more successful raising money from individuals than from political action committees. In fact, only a handful of corporate PACs have shared their funds with him: Taco Bell's TACO PAC; IHOP's Pancake PAC; the PAC of Salem Media, a chain of Christian radio stations; the Ohio Coal Association's PAC; and the PACs of oil and gas firm Continental Resources and Nexstar Media.
Trump's overall numbers are low in part because he didn't really start a concerted fundraising push until this summer; before that he said he was "self-funding" his campaign. And Kyle Kondik, managing editor at Sabato's Crystal Ball, a University of Virginia election forecasting outlet, noted that Trump's efforts have generally skewed toward small-dollar donors.
"Trump's small-dollar fundraising has actually been pretty decent," he said. "Some of the big money people aren't as excited about him." In fact, about twice as much of Trump's total haul from individuals has come from small ($200 and under) donors as from larger ones. The FEC doesn't require candidates to release detailed information -- name, address, employer and so on -- about these donors to the public, so we can't sort them by industry. Overall, 29 percent of his cash has come from small donors, compared with 19 percent of Clinton's.
The Republican's campaign said it raised $18 million on Tuesday, the day after the first presidential debate; but while some of that no doubt came from small donors, the campaign also had a "National Call Day" in which big donors were asked to come to Trump Tower and call their dearest friends and associates to hit them up for larger sums.
Trump has raised more than Clinton in just a handful of industries thus far. Predictably, he had taken more from Republican/conservative and gun rights interests, earning $529,797 and $180,204 more than the Democrat, respectively. He also holds the lead in contributions from those working in mining, building equipment and materials, poultry and eggs, trucking and a category we call "miscellaneous agriculture," into which we put donors who list vague occupations like, well, "farmer."
And there are only four industries from which Trump collected more than $1 million (the aforementioned retirees, health professionals, real estate and miscellaneous business). Clinton, on the other hand, had 31 industries that have been at least that generous to her, while Obama and Romney enjoyed seven-figure sums from 26 and 29 industries, respectively, through Aug. 31.
Trump's fundraising capabilities going forward likely will hinge on impressions about his electoral chances, Kondik said, noting that some of the traditional Republican donors who have been wary thus far might kick in if they sense that he can win. Trump"s perceived weakness in Monday's debate, though, didn't help.
"I think elite opinions of Trump have always been low," Kondik said, "but they may be lower now."
Senior Researcher Douglas Weber contributed to this report.