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Winning elections is expensive. Trump’s lies are much cheaper.

Former President Donald Trump is both promising a big win and cutting investments in campaigning. That’s a dangerous combination.

Elections are an expensive business. What doesn’t cost a lot of money, though, is claiming that the only reason for one’s narrow loss is fraudulent votes. “If everything’s honest, I’d gladly accept the results,” former President Donald Trump told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel earlier this month when asked if he’d concede if President Joe Biden wins re-election. “If it’s not, you have to fight for the right of the country.”

Call it the Trump Theory of Electoral Savings. Trump supporters recently told NBC News “they weren’t prepared to accept a Biden victory as legitimate, potentially setting up another presidential election — and potentially a volatile aftermath — in which a large part of the public refuses to believe the results.” It’s a particularly dangerous situation for the country when you consider that Trump is setting up expectations for success while at the same time refusing to devote resources to Republicans winning.

Call it the Trump Theory of Electoral Savings.

Consider for a moment that political campaigns are expected to spend more than $10 billion on ads alone by the end of the 2024 election cycle. That doesn’t factor in the money that goes into knocking on doors, polling, opening offices and the other sundry costs of running for office. National political parties usually help to defray some of those state and local costs around the country, which is why the Republican National Committee’s ongoing cash crunch should be a concern for those hoping for a red wave this fall.

What money the GOP is raising, though, isn’t necessarily going toward state-level campaigns — or even to Trump’s own re-election efforts. Trump “has told people in charge of the RNC to focus on election security more than field programs, because he believes he will be able to personally motivate his voters to the polls in the fall,” The Washington Post reported Friday. The emphasis on election security is troubling on its own, given the utter lack of evidence to support Trump’s claims that voter fraud marred the 2020 election. As I’ve argued before, the problem the GOP faces when it comes to winning races isn’t “election security,” it’s Trump himself.

But his campaign and the RNC — which is now run by loyal Trump allies and family members and which has reportedly asked potential new hires whether they believe the 2020 election was stolen — have also committed to running a “leaner” campaign that uses fewer resources. For example, the Post reports that the campaign has “decided not to hire separate political, communications and research operations at the campaign and the national party.” That sounds like a potentially prudent cost-saving measure — that also raises the question of whether down-ballot races will be a priority compared to the Trump operation.

It’s a genuine worry, because the RNC has traditionally concerned itself with candidates up and down state ballots across the country. So even more eyebrow-raising is the decision to scrap the committee’s earlier plan to ramp up nationwide for the general election. There are anxious rumblings within state-level parties that those efforts will go by the wayside in favor of the presidential race. And that could be a real problem for the GOP in states like Arizona and Georgia where the results may be even closer this year than they were in 2020:

The original RNC plan for the state of Georgia, reviewed by The Washington Post, called for hiring 12 regional field directors in April and 40 field organizers by the end of May, in addition to eventually opening 20 offices and a community center in the College Park, a mostly Black suburb of Atlanta. Arizona was slotted to receive six regional field directors, seven offices and 23 field organizers by the end of May. Party leaders had drafted similar road maps for other battleground states before Ronna McDaniel was replaced as chairwoman.

This isn’t to say that the RNC is definitely banking on cries of voter fraud and the resulting chaos as its main strategy for victory in the fall. There’s still time for the GOP to start investing in battleground states ahead of November. And as the failure to sway Republican governors and secretaries of state in 2020 showed us, trying to fraudulently blame voter fraud for your electoral losses only works when everyone is on the same page.

As far as scams go, the one Trump is pulling here is pretty basic.

But tell that to the 46% of Republicans who have only a little faith, or none at all, that the 2024 presidential votes will be counted accurately, according to an AP-NORC poll conducted last year. Or to the growing list of top Republicans who have danced around the issue lately when asked whether they would accept the 2024 election results. (It’s notable that this strategy only comes cheap if it’s successful. Many Trump-aligned lawyers who championed his lies in 2020 have been heavily fined or faced disbarment; and several have been charged with crimes including the RNC’s new election integrity lead.)

As far as scams go, the one Trump is pulling here is pretty basic. He’s still trying to raise money for the campaign, begging big-spending billionaires to fill the quickly draining coffers. He’s out at rallies telling his fans that there’s no way he loses, absent massive voter fraud, priming them to reject any loss. Meanwhile, Trump is siphoning off money that should be spent on GOP election efforts to pay his legal fees so he can keep from having to shell out that money himself. What we’re seeing play out is a cheapskate’s plot to destroy faith in democracy for no better reason than to save a few bucks (although, in fairness, it’s not just a few). The real question is whether this time around, Republican leaders go along with the ruse.