Donald Trump’s rally Tuesday might do a little bit to keep Austin weird, but it is mostly about Trump remaining true to his idiosyncratic approach to running for president.
“It’s a bit unconventional to be in Austin, Texas, for a rally with 80-some-odd days to go before the election, but he’s an unconventional candidate, and it’s gotten him this far,” said Dierdre Delisi, an Austin political consultant and former adviser and chief of staff to then-Gov. Rick Perry.
But Texas has proved fertile fundraising territory — the single best state for direct contributions to his presidential campaign through the end of July — and is also home to some of the biggest donors to his campaign’s joint fundraising arrangement with the Republican National Committee and several state Republican parties.
And as long as Trump was going to be in Texas for two fundraisers Tuesday — a luncheon at the City Club in Fort Worth and a 6 p.m. reception at the Headliners Club in downtown Austin — it is his proclivity to have a large rally.
Trump will speak at the Travis County Exposition Center on Tuesday night in a city that Perry has called the blueberry floating in a big bowl of tomato soup, but like most of Trump’s other rallies, it is national in its reach, thanks to the wall-to-wall coverage that his campaign has thrived on from the start.
“Until cable TV stops covering those rallies, he’s going to keep having them everywhere,” said Jim Henson, who directs the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas. But, Henson said, “nobody in Austin should be under the impression that the rally is for them.”
“They are working under the theory that as long as they’re on TV, it really doesn’t matter whether it’s in Austin, because voters in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, Colorado and all the swing states will see it,” said Delisi. For viewers across the country, the fact that Trump happens to be in Austin might add an extra element of interest. And for Texas Republicans, long starved for a general election appearance by their party’s general election standard-bearer, the rally is something to celebrate.
Bob Dole was the last major party candidate to campaign in Texas this close to a general election (with the exception of end-of-campaign homecomings by George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004), and his appearance at Southern Methodist University in October 1996 came at a time when his candidacy was thought doomed.
Trump seems a sure bet to win Texas, despite polls showing him with a smaller lead than the margins of victory that Texas Republicans have grown accustomed to in the last two presidential elections and the statewide elections in between.
And, Delisi notes, Trump is spending the campaign’s most precious commodity here.
“You can’t create more time,” she said. “A day in Texas is one day less stepping foot in a swing state.”
But, Delisi said, “this will likely be a very lucrative trip for him.”
According to Federal Election Commission records, Texans have contributed $55.6 million directly to both major party presidential candidates’ official committees this cycle — $38.5 million to Republicans and just shy of $17 million to Democrats — through the end of July.
The single biggest beneficiary of Texas giving was U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who collected $19.8 million in his failed bid for the Republican nomination. Hillary Clinton raised $13.3 million, and Bernie Sanders raised $3.4 million.
Trump, who defeated 16 Republican rivals in a campaign that largely depended on free media coverage and was very late to the fundraising game, has raised a little more than $5 million in Texas, more than from any other state and outdistancing his home state of New York and his home-away-from-home state of Florida.
Donations to the candidate’s campaign were limited to a total of $2,700 per person before the party’s political convention and $2,700 after the convention.
The joint Trump-Republican Party fundraising effort, known as the Trump Victory fund, which will be the recipient of money raised Tuesday in Texas, reaped the bounty of Trump’s fundraising tour in June to Dallas, San Antonio and Houston. Trump held rallies then in Dallas and The Woodlands, both of which were well-attended.
That money, and the money raised Tuesday, is divvied up among the national party, the Trump campaign and an array of state parties — not including Texas.
Texas ranked second for those donations, with Texans giving Trump $5.3 million, just behind California’s $5.4 million and well ahead of New York with $3.6 million, Florida with $3.2 million and Georgia with $1.1 million.
The five biggest Texas donors were Carl Allen, owner, CEO and president of Heritage Bag Co., and Anne Allen, from the small Denton County city of Roanoke; D.A. Beal, the chairman of Beal Bank, of Dallas; and biotechnology entrepreneur Darwin Deason and his wife, Katerina, of Dallas. Each of them donated the maximum at the time, $449,400. The maximum has since increased as more states have become part of the joint fundraising effort.
The biggest Austin donors so far are investor John Markham Green of the Owner Resource Group, who contributed $45,000 in June, and lawyer James McCutcheon, who gave $15,000 in June.
Top Austin contributors to Trump Victory committee
$45,000: John Markham Green, executive chairman of Owner Resource Group
$15,000: James McCutcheon, lawyer
$7,500: Heidi Hutter, principal at Black Diamond Capital Partners
$7,500: Jay Novik, principal at Black Diamond Capital Partners
$5,400: Tim Von Dohlen, principal at Von Dohlen Group
Note: Contribution totals as of June 30
Source: Federal Election Commission