As TPM's Josh Marshall keeps saying, all the sturm und drang over Donald Trump's fired campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, and the bad month of June in the polls so far really are symptoms of the fact that the Trump campaign is effectively broke, and that's because Trump himself has been conning the world about his wealth.
So it all comes down to, where's the money? We tend to look at Trump's threadbare campaign as a product of epic disorganization or the candidate's mercurial personality. But as the mammoth TV ad campaigns ramp up unanswered and field operations fail to materialize, those explanations are really no longer sufficient.
Trump may be unwilling to abase himself by dialing for dollars and his digital fundraising may be anemic. But at the scale of Trump's purported wealth, the sums in question are actually paltry. It may take a billion dollars to run a presidential campaign. But at this moment Trump is in dire need of a few million dollars. To go back to cash on hand, Trump currently has $2.4 million and Clinton has just over $30 million. Remember, Trump is allegedly worth $10 billion, which at the risk of stating the obvious means he is worth ten thousand million dollars. Someone in that position might be hard pressed to quickly produce billions of dollars or even hundreds of million in actual cash. But we're talking tens of millions or even just a few million dollars he needs right now.
Trump may be stingy. He may be saying that the RNC should take responsibility for fundraising, which is something it's clearly not capable of doing. (The RNC has massive fundraising capacity but it can't simply take on singlehanded what the candidate was expected to raise.) But as big a disaster as Trump's campaign is at the moment he stands a real shot at being the next president of the United States. It is simply not credible that he is standing on principle in not giving his campaign any more money at such a critical moment when his bid is being so deeply damaged.
The only credible answer is that it is difficult or perhaps even impossible for him to produce these comparatively small sums. If that's true, his claim to be worth billions of dollars must either be a pure sham and a fraud or some artful concoction of extreme leverage and accounting gimmickry, which makes it impossible to come up with actual cash. It's true that he's already loaned his campaign over $40 million, which at least suggests a substantial amount of liquid assets to draw on. But we've never really known where that money came from or whether it needs to be repaid to some other party. Indeed, Trump's unwillingness to give up his right to be repaid, essentially reimbursed for the primary campaign, by GOP high rollers has always been a telling but largely ignored detail.
It's been a subject of endless fascination for many to try to make sense of Trump's business empire and a producer of schadenfreude on an epic scale for those poking holes in his account of his billions. Perhaps later this week he'll prove me totally wrong and announce he's loaning himself another $100 million or $200 million. But I doubt it. If he could, why would he have allowed himself to get into this money crunch? This is now perhaps the critical question in the campaign: what happens if Donald Trump is effectively broke and can't produce critical funds for his campaign at make or break moments let alone self-fund the whole endeavor?
We've seen what happens: he blames other people and will continue to. This is why Lewandowski was fired, and this is why when things magically fail to improve heading into the GOP convention next month, Paul Manafort will most likely get the axe too.
The reality is that Trump is a broke con man running the most ambitious con in American history, a guy who is running on being a self-sufficient paper billionaire who doesn't have two nickels to rub together when it comes to funding the day-to-day operations of his own campaign.
Here's the dirtiest secret of the 2016 election: Trump is broke but it doesn't matter one bit. Since facts don't matter to his supporters, he'll continue to run with the grift as long as they let him, and he's most likely right that the GOP now has no choice but to play along or be destroyed by the same voters. They will turn on the party so rapidly that the blood won't have time to hit the floor. The rough beast slouching its way towards Cleveland won't be denied.
Since we have empirical evidence that Republicans and their supporters are moral cowards (that they let Trump get this far is all the evidence you need) again, we're somehow counting on Republican establishment donors and major players to show courage here and cut him off? Hardly. The marks bought into the Ponzi scheme and now they have to keep it going or they get ruined too.
Believe me when I say that while GOP donors with big pocketbooks are supposedly standing up to Trump now (and it's helping that Trump is too lazy to do fundraising, his all-consuming narcissism means that it's beneath him to go begging to anyone who doesn't automatically agree how great Trump is) once Trump becomes the nominee, the donors will fall in line just like the rest of the party, and they will do so out of abject fear.
Yes, Trump is broke, but he'll get the money he needs anyway from the party, or his fanatics will abandon the Republicans and take the GOP's hard-fought power at the state and congressional level with it. The GOP knows it. They talk a big game, but they've already beaten and were beaten on this months ago. They will fold.
At some point next month, Reince Preibus will have a conference call with the Super PACs and say "If you don't support the guy at the top of our ticket, then we'll lose it all. Pay up." And they will. They have no choice.
All Trump has to do right now is get through the convention and whatever money problems he has will vanish, out of necessity. If not, he takes the entire Republican apparatus down with him, and 2016 will become the biggest national landslide in generations...for the Democrats.
It still may. He's broke, but he still wins. Trump's a winner, you see. And if the GOP's not going to go along, that makes them losers by default.
And nobody likes a loser. Losers get fed to the rough beast.