In the end, Donald Trump defeated big money.
The Republican’s presidential campaign raised less than half of what Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton did. He ran a fraction of the TV ads, even in decisive battleground states. And although prominent Republican donors came to Trump’s aid during the campaign’s final days, his supportive super PACs and other political groups raised relatively paltry sums when compared to Clinton’s groups.
Somehow, for the volatile, unpredictable New York businessman, that was enough on his way to winning the White House.
More than enough.
A swell of white, working class voters, who believed the billionaire when he said he wouldn’t be beholden to special interests, propelled him in a manner that defied polls and the predictions of pundits relying on conventional wisdom for how to win elections.
Trump edged Clinton in the swing states of Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania and snatched Wisconsin, a state expected to serve as Clinton’s bulwark against a Trump surge. He promised to “drain the swamp” that is Washington, D.C., and its lobbyists and professional politickers.
In a victory speech delivered in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, Trump credited his victory to voters “who want and expect our government to serve the people, and serve the people it will.”
Now, Trump has to prove it.
Trump’s relationship with big money
From Trump’s first day on the trail, when he rode the Trump Tower escalator down to announce his bid, the first-time candidate told voters he would be different. He was running against the establishment — Republican as much as Democratic.
Politicians are “controlled fully— they’re controlled fully by the lobbyists, by the donors and by the special interests, fully,” he said.
And that, he promised over and over through months of Republican primaries, wouldn’t be him.
“I really like the Koch Brothers (members of my P.B. Club), but I don't want their money or anything else from them. Cannot influence Trump!” he tweeted.
Meanwhile, his Republican primary opponents were on the money trail, setting up officially sanctioned super PACs and courting big donors.
The money didn’t help, the super PACs weren’t enough and Trump endlessly mocked his opponents for toadying to big donors.
“I wish good luck to all of the Republican candidates that traveled to California to beg for money etc. from the Koch Brothers. Puppets?” he tweeted in August 2015.
Trump insisted he would self-fund and could spend as much as it took.