WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is warring with California’s Democratic officials over auto-emission standards and the state’s homeless crisis, but here at the center of the resistance to his administration he’s scooped up $15 million for his re-election campaign during a two-day swing through the Golden state.
The big haul — divided between Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee — underscores the enormous financial advantage the President has built over the Democratic field. It also highlights the ability of the White House incumbent to find support in pockets of the nation’s most populous state, even as he spars with its elected officials and celebrity residents.
“He’s President and he’s very popular with Republicans,” California’s National Republican Committeewoman Harmeet Dhillon told CNN, a day after she accompanied Trump to a Bay Area fundraiser at the home of Sun Microsystems co-founder Scott McNealy.
Officials say the event brought in $3 million for Trump Victory, the President’s joint fundraising operation with the national party. Dhillon said 400 people attended the luncheon, and she had to turn away dozens more who were eager to see Trump.
“The President has millions of supporters in California,” she said. “There was not a single empty seat there.”
California cash despite clashes
While that might be true, the Golden State is also among the most hostile to the President’s agenda at the grassroots level. His policies have brought hundreds of thousands of Californians out on to the streets to protest at the series of women’ marches. Outrage over Trump’s rollback of environmental regulations and his administration’s deportation policies and vilification of undocumented immigrants, among other policy disagreements, has led the state to file 59 lawsuits against the federal government since Trump took office.
The antagonism toward Trump in California clearly has not dampened enthusiasm for his reelection campaign among Republican donors, which was underscored by his jaw-dropping $15 million haul over two days.
The biggest windfall of Trump’s California swing: the $5 million raised Tuesday night at the gated Beverly Hills home of real-estate developer Geoff Palmer, who has supported the President in the past and recently hosted Vice President Mike Pence for a fundraiser.
More than 900 people attended, and Trump spoke for 45 minutes, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham told reporters.
On Wednesday, Trump was expected to collect another $7 million at two events: $3 million at a breakfast at the Intercontinental Hotel in downtown Los Angeles and $4 million at a luncheon in San Diego.
Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who has been informally involved in the re-election effort, tagged along for his West Coast visit.
The President, who filed his reelection paperwork the day he was sworn into office, is raising money at a pace unprecedented for a modern president. And his two-day haul surpasses the nearly $12 million that California’s home-state Sen. Kamala Harris raised during the entire April-to-June fundraising quarter in her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Overall, Trump’s campaign committee and the outside groups supporting him have raised more than $200 million for his reelection through the end of June, according to a tally by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics — nearly matching the $211 million raised by the entire field of Democrats jockeying to face him in 2020
Even so, the California swing is not a record haul for Trump. In the two days after he formally kicked off his reelection bid with an Orlando rally in June, Trump and the Republican National Committee reported raising a combined $30 million.
Advance details of the President’s fundraising activities were kept under tight wraps in the days leading up to his visit.
After billionaire real-estate developer Stephen Ross faced serious backlash for hosting a fundraiser for the President last month in the Hamptons, an official familiar with how the fundraisers are planned said there has been an active effort underway in recent weeks to keep the names of those hosting the fundraisers out of the press.
A few dozen protesters gathered along the route of the Bay Area fundraiser.
Dhillon also cited violent demonstrations that broke out during Trump’s 2016 visit to California as a candidate as a reason for the secrecy surrounding his events this week.
Trump’s visit stirred controversy even before he arrived.
The actress Debra Messing publicly demanded a list of who would attend Trump’s fundraiser in Beverly Hills. Trump slammed Messing in response, calling the “Will & Grace” star a “bad” actress who was seeking to “blacklist” his supporters.
Dhillon said the Bay Area event could have attracted three times the number of donors who crowded into McNealy’s Portola Valley mansion on Tuesday to hear the President.
Trump and his team “left a lot of money on the table” during their short visit. “I asked them ‘Will you come back?” Dhillon added. “They said, ‘Absolutely. ‘”
For decades now, Republicans in California have been receding into the political wilderness, but Trump appears to be accelerating that decline. There is no Republican official elected statewide in California, and the GOP’s last grip on power was the number of seats they held in Congress. But that grip was weakened in the 2018 midterm elections. Trump’s policies brought out outraged Democratic voters — particularly women — in droves and they succeeded in flipping more than a half-dozen seats from red to blue.
The number of registered independents in California (28.3%) has also been rising. Democrats, who make up 43% of the electorate, vastly outnumber Republicans here (23.6%), according to data from the Public Policy Institute of California. The institute has found that more Californians favor Trump’s impeachment than the nation as a whole, and 65% of voters said they would choose a candidate other than the President in the election next year.
Still, Trump — whose approval rating has hovered around 40% nationally — enjoys strong support from Republicans here: 84% of GOP voters approve of the job that Trump has done as President, while 43% of independents and 8% of Democrats approve, according to the latest PPIC survey.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom has relished the fight against Trump’s agenda, stating that California is the “progressive answer to a transgressive president.”
The two tangled this week over the Trump administration’s decision to revoke California’s waiver with the Environmental Protection Agency, which allowed the state to set more stringent vehicle emissions standards than those set at the federal level. California had been so successful in negotiating with auto makers in their efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions and address air quality issues that 13 states and the District of Columbia follow at least some portion of their Advanced Clean Car Program.
“One thing I won’t do is capitulate,” Newsom told CNN’s Kyung Lah in an interview about his contentious relationship with the commander-in-chief before Trump formally announced that his administration would revoke the vehicle emissions waiver.
“Look stay out of our way, let California continue, not to survive, but thrive, despite the headwinds, despite everything you’re doing to try to put sand in the gears of our success.”
Trump ended his trip with a final shot at California as he flew back to Washington aboard Air Force One, announcing his intention to give San Francisco a notice of environmental violations due to its homelessness problem.
“It’s a terrible situation — that’s in Los Angeles and in San Francisco,” he said to reporters, according to a report from a pool reporter. “And we’re going to be giving San Francisco — they’re in total violation — we’re going to be giving them a notice very soon.”
“EPA is going to be putting out a notice,” he added. “They’re in serious violation.”