Why hasn't Trump donated more money to his own campaign?

As October got underway, Trump had only chipped in about $8,000 to his campaign, despite the "whatever it takes" rhetoric from a few weeks earlier.
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REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won/Files

When looking at candidates' fundraising totals, the amount of money they've raised is important, but so too is what they have left in the bank. After all, if a candidate raised a ton of money early on, but has already spent it before crunch time, the overall tally paints an incomplete picture.

It's why there's so much focus on something called "cash on hand": a term that refers to the amount of money a campaign has left to invest.

It's also why the latest filings with the Federal Election Commission are so discouraging for Republicans: Donald Trump's re-election campaign may have raised $1 billion in recent years, but as October got underway a few weeks ago, the president's campaign committee had only $63.1 million in the bank -- roughly a third of Joe Biden's cash on hand.

Last month, confronted with reports about his struggling finances, Trump said there was nothing to worry about: if the need arose, he'd pick up his own checkbook. The Bloomberg News was first to report that the self-proclaimed billionaire was prepared to contribute $100 million to his campaign.

Asked by reporters soon after about his willingness to donate to his own cause, the president said, "Yeah, if I have to, I would.... I'd put it up personally, like I did in the primaries last time. In the 2016 primaries, I put up a lot of money. If I have to, I'll do it here. But we don't have to because we have double and maybe even triple what we had" in 2016.

Pressed on how much of his own money he's prepared to spend on his re-election bid, the Republican added, simply, "Whatever it takes. We have to win."

A month later, Trump started the cycle's final full month with only $63.1 million in the bank, and his misplaced boasts about flush campaign coffers now appear ridiculous. So whatever happened to those assurances about the president turning to his own money? Politico reported this morning that the money from Trump's own accounts "has not materialized."

Trump has contributed just over $8,000 to his campaign this election cycle, according to FEC data. It's a huge difference from 2016, when Trump contributed $66 million of his own money to his first presidential bid.

In fairness, the FEC filing doesn't reflect donations after Sept. 30, so it's possible the president has since become more generous toward his own re-election operation.

But it's nevertheless astonishing that as October got underway, Trump had only chipped in about $8,000 to his campaign, despite the "whatever it takes" rhetoric from a few weeks earlier.