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Trump campaign, RNC suspend in-person fundraising events as coronavirus spreads

U.S. President Donald Trump walks toward Marine One prior to his departure for a campaign event in Battle Creek, Michigan, December 18, 2019 at the White House in Washington, DC.

Mark Wilson | Getty Images

President Donald Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee are suspending in-person fundraising events and will raise money through a digital platform as the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact the 2020 election. 

Trump’s campaign and the RNC have signaled to their allies that in-person events will no longer take place as the coronavirus has now spread to all 50 states and Washington, D.C., according to people with direct knowledge of the matter, who declined to be named because these decisions were made in private. 

The Trump campaign confirmed the development.

“President Trump and the RNC have the strongest fundraising operation in presidential history and our unmatched data and digital operation make us uniquely equipped to sustain a digital fundraising operation. As it is, we are in an incredibly strong position,” said Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for the Trump campaign. “While we are temporarily suspending in-person fundraising events, we will still be able to gather support from Americans who fully support President Trump, his accomplishments, and his leadership.”

Murtaugh confirmed organization plans to hold virtual fundraising events instead. The decision follows a similar one from the president’s likely rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, who has been trying to host virtual town halls and fundraisers himself, although some have had technical difficulties and others have been postponed

Mandi Merritt, a spokeswoman for the RNC, said the committee will also be turning to direct mail as a way to stay connected with donors. 

“We have a variety of tools that allow us to continue to succeed even without holding in person events. We have invested in robust digital and direct mail platforms that allow us to engage with voters and talk to our supporters about the issues they care most about,” she said. “Those tools will continue to produce strong responses.” 

She also noted that the RNC has “incredible reserves” when it comes to financial resources, and that “even during this month dominated by self-quarantines and social distancing we expect to post very strong numbers.” 

The campaign had previously said they were going to use their digital tools to connect with voters but that announcement did not include how they were going to handle fundraising. 

“Efforts will include holding virtual events with top surrogates, utilizing online platforms to train thousands of members of the Trump Neighborhood Team, activating the massive volunteer network to make calls to rally support for the President in states voting soon, and increasing online voter registration efforts of Trump rally attendees identified as not currently registered to vote,” the campaign and the RNC said on March 13. 

The move could have an impact on Trump’s fundraising success, although they do have a strong digital fundraising operation already in place. Trump’s big money events, often arranged by the joint fundraising committee, Trump Victory, usually ask for high six figure contributions for donors to gain access. The committee helps raise cash both for the RNC and Trump campaign. 

Just last week, Trump took part in a Trump Victory fundraiser at the home of Florida businessman Bob Dello Russo. To gain access to the roundtable discussion and get a photo taken with the president, the committee asked for a donation of $100,000 per couple.  The event was expected to raise millions of dollars. 

Trump, the RNC and their joint fundraising committees combined to raise over $86 million in the month of February and have over $225 million on hand. 

That same weekend, the president spoke to donors at his resort at Mar-a-Lago during an RNC retreat and the administration coronavirus response was brought up. He reassured the financiers that the administration had everything under control. A separate Trump Victory event took place at Mar-a-Lago that same weekend and the committee later told attendees that someone who took part tested positive for COVID-19. 

Trump and RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel have both said they were tested but were negative for the coronavirus. 

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