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Oct. 28, 2020, 3:40 p.m. EDT

How Biden’s war chest has eclipsed Trump’s — in one chart

Trump campaign says it nonetheless has the ‘strength, resources, record & huge ground game needed’ to win the White House race

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By Victor Reklaitis, MarketWatch


MarketWatch photo illustration/Getty Images, iStockphoto
Joe Biden and Donald Trump’s campaigns and their affiliates are fundraising and spending in a big way.

President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign and its affiliates have brought in more money from donors than Joe Biden’s side in the past two years, but they’ve also spent more and recently lagged in fundraising, so the Democratic effort started this month with a cash advantage.

That’s shown in the chart below, which is based on disclosures filed this month.

Biden’s side has raised $1.74 billion and spent $1.32 billion in two years, meaning there was around $420 million left as of Sept. 30 — or about $430 million when including cash on hand as 2019 began. Meanwhile, Trump’s side has brought in $2.06 billion and shelled out $1.87 billion, meaning there was around $190 million remaining — or about $250 million when including cash on hand as 2019 started.

A campaign’s financial status is a closely watched measure of viability, along with polling data, where Biden also has the advantage.

Related: Trump, Biden square off over coronavirus, stock market and economy in final debate

And see: Trump’s advantage over Biden in spending on Facebook and Google ads — in one chart

The Trump campaign’s big spending has drawn flak, with Mike Murphy, a veteran Republican consultant and outspoken Trump critic, telling the Associated Press that “10 monkeys with flamethrowers” going after the money “wouldn’t have burned through it as stupidly.” In the wake of the heavy spending, the campaign lately has canceled TV ads in some states, though it has booked new coordinated ads with the Republican National Committee, according to Medium Buying , which reports on political advertising.

But a Trump campaign spokesman has said that as the White House race hits its final stretch, the president’s team has the “ strength, resources, record & huge ground game needed ” to win. And 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton had a sizable money advantage over Trump but didn’t become president.

The totals shown in the chart are based on filings this month by the two politicians’ principal campaign committees and their joint fundraising committees with their respective parties (the Biden Victory Fund, the Biden Action Fund, the Trump Victory Committee and the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, also known as TMAGAC or T-Magic). They also include the Democratic National Committee’s and the Republican National Committee’s figures for fundraising, spending and cash on hand, even as the main party committees are supporting not only their presidential candidates, but their Congressional candidates and other activities as well.

Biden’s cash advantage looks particularly pronounced when it comes to the money remaining for just the principal campaign committees. The Democratic challenger’s main campaign committee began this month with $177 million in cash on hand , almost three times as much as Trump’s principal committee, which reported $63.1 million in cash remaining. What’s more, disclosures filed last Thursday revealing cash on hand as of Oct. 14 have Biden’s main committee with $162 million , close to four times as much as Trump’s $43.6 million .

Overall spending in this year’s elections — with the White House as well as House and Senate seats at stake — will approach a record $11 billion , according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit group that tracks money in politics. That would easily top the $7 billion spent in today’s dollars in the 2016 elections.

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Beyond the outlays by Biden and Trump’s main campaign committees, their joint fundraising committees, the DNC and the RNC, there are super PACs and other outside groups combining to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in an effort to influence the outcome of the White House contest. Pro-Biden outside groups have shelled out about $571 million in total, while pro-Trump outside groups have spent about $295 million, according to analysts at watchdog Issue One . The groups range from pro-Biden super PACs like Priorities USA Action and the Lincoln Project to pro-Trump groups like America First Action and Preserve America.

Related: Big investors, Walmart heiress help fund anti-Trump super PAC airing ‘Mourning in America’ ad

And read: Trump raised 5 times as much money from America’s top CEOs as Biden

During the battle to become the Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential nominee, Biden lagged behind his top rivals in the contest’s money race. But more recently, the former vice president managed to outpace Trump’s fundraising in August and September, though Trump scored more donations in July.

If there are leftover funds, candidates are allowed to make contributions to political allies, spend the residual cash on winding down their campaign operations, donate to charity or use the money on a different run for federal office, but they can’t put the funds toward personal expenses.

In a RealClearPolitics average of polls as of Wednesday, Biden is leading Trump by 3.6 percentage points in top swing states that are likely to decide the Nov. 3 election. Trump also often touts the performance of the stock market, and the S&P 500 /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX +0.56% is up 2% for the year and notched an all-time high on Sept. 2, but down 2% in October.

Now read: Obama returns to campaign trail for Biden as Trump visits North Carolina

Also see: Here’s how key swing states are leaning in the presidential race — and how they’re weathering the recession

This is an updated version of a report first published on Oct. 21, 2020.

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Victor Reklaitis is MarketWatch's Money & Politics reporter and is based in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter @VicRek.

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