VP Pence's outreach to 2016 anti-Trump donors meeting with some success

The 2020 presidential campaign is already well underway, and the Trump re-election effort finds itself playing catch-up.

Some Democratic candidates have raised eye-popping amounts of money in their first few days and weeks of fundraising.  And some Republicans are fretting that their donors who sat on the sidelines in 2016 — or actively opposed the president — might not participate in 2020.

With many estimates of how much Trump will need to be successful topping $1 billion, it becomes a matter of some importance to get the anti-Trump whales back in the fold.

To that end, Vice President Mike Pence has begun a low-key outreach effort to many of those donors.  Among them: billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Singer, who gave millions to an effort to defeat Trump before the convention.


Over a surf and turf dinner, the vice president showered praise on Paul Singer, a prominent New York City hedge fund manager who spent millions of dollars in 2016 bankrolling TV ads painting Trump as "too reckless and dangerous to be president."

But as the group of assembled Republicans — some of whom have been similarly skeptical about the president in the past — looked on, Pence praised the 74-year-old billionaire as a leading free-market thinker and thanked him for his years of financial support to the party and conservative causes.

The private dinner provides a window into a behind-the-scenes, Pence-led mission: to ensure that Republican givers who never came around to Trump in 2016 are on board for 2020.  With Democrats already raking in colossal amounts of cash, Republicans estimate they'll need to raise around $1 billion — a figure that will require the party's donor class to be all-in.  Party officials also want to deprive any would-be Trump primary challengers of the financial oxygen they'd need to mount a campaign.

It's not likely that too many anti-Trump billionaires would fund a fantasy primary challenge from a NeverTrump politician like John Kasich or William Weld.  So Pence's main effort is to convince these people that standing by and allowing the election of a socialist Democrat would be a nightmare from which America will never wake up.

The reception hasn't always been friendly.  While attending an exclusive American Enterprise Institute-hosted retreat earlier this month, Pence was grilled by former Vice President Dick Cheney on the administration's foreign policy record.

At his Pebble Beach appearance, Pence carefully tailored his appeal to the conservatives in attendance by highlighting the administration's efforts to reshape the nation's courts.  And he gave a dire prediction of what would happen if liberals seized the White House: "The moment America becomes a socialist country is the moment America ceases to be America."

It should be an easy sell, but it hasn't always been.  The vast and influential Koch network of donors has already indicated intentions to sit out the 2020 presidential contest.  But these are not, for the most part, ideologues who hold a grudge.  Whatever faults they believe that Trump has, they realize the political reality: it's Trump's world, and the rest of us just live in it.

Koch network member Art Pope of North Carolina thinks most donors will eventually come around:

"The conventional wisdom and the quote 'word on the street' in November of 2016 through spring of 2017 was that if you publicly criticized Donald Trump as a candidate, you need not apply to a position. You won't be considered, you won't be invited to the White House Christmas party or anything else," said Pope. "That is not the conventional wisdom now."

Pope said he hasn't decided whether to donate to Trump in 2020.  But he said he expected few of those who opposed Trump in the 2016 election to remain on the sidelines this time.

"The number of people who were publicly opposed or critical of President Trump during the 2016 election," he said, "has really dwindled."

I'm not sure Trump has entirely "forgiven and forgotten."  But he's realistic enough to see that he needs every dollar he can squeeze from these donors.  Pence has apparently had some success in bringing these donors back into the fold, which can only be good news for Trump's 2020 chances.

If you experience technical problems, please write to helpdesk@americanthinker.com