Pence and other long-shot GOP candidates face financial warning signs as 2024 approaches

Oct 16, 2023, 5:30 AM

Former Vice President Mike Pence, seen here on September 15, has run up debt in his bid for the Whi...

Former Vice President Mike Pence, seen here on September 15, has run up debt in his bid for the White House. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)

(Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)

Originally Published: 15 OCT 23 16:14 ET
Updated: 15 OCT 23 20:35 ET

(CNN) — Former Vice President Mike Pence has run up debt in his bid for the White House, according to figures released by his campaign Sunday – underscoring the financial hurdle he faces just months before the first contests for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.

And other fundraising totals announced by GOP contenders ahead of a midnight filing deadline with the Federal Election Commission highlight the vast financial divide among the large group of candidates vying to become their party’s standard-bearer. Former President Donald Trump appears to sit atop the field in fundraising, according to his campaign’s previously released figures – with Pence and several others trailing far behind.

Pence’s presidential campaign raised $3.3 million in the third quarter and had nearly $1.2 million in the bank as of September 30, according to his FEC filings. A portion of that available cash can be only used for the general election should Pence secure the nomination.

The campaign also reported $620,000 in debt.

The former vice president also pitched in $150,000 of his own funds during the July-to-September period, the filings show, amid his struggle to gain traction with Republican voters and donors.

NBC News first reported Pence’s third-quarter totals.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott have all reported raising millions more through their campaigns and affiliated committees, putting them on stronger financial footing heading into the next leg of the race.

Scott ended the quarter with $13.3 million in cash on hand – $11.6 million of which can be spent in the Republican presidential primary, a campaign official said Sunday.

That puts the senator ahead of the available primary cash previously announced by Haley ($9.1 million) and DeSantis ($5 million).

(Some candidates are raising sums above the limits set for the primary elections, which cannot be used unless they advance to the general election.)

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, meanwhile, raised $3.8 million in the third quarter and had $3.9 million banked as of September 30, according to a campaign spokesperson.

All of the money Christie has raised is designated for use in the primary, the spokesperson said.

Axios first reported the totals for Christie, who has staked his campaign on having a strong showing in the New Hampshire primary.

Another GOP contender, biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, raised more than $7.4 million in the third fundraising quarter, a campaign spokesperson told CNN.

Ramaswamy’s total included contributions from more than 78,000 unique small-dollar donors. The average donation to Ramaswamy’s campaign in the third quarter was $38, with 38% of donors being first-time contributors to a Republican candidate, the spokesperson said.

The campaign had $4.2 million in the bank on September 30, all of which can be spent in the Republican presidential primary, according to the spokesperson. Ramaswamy did not make any personal loans to his campaign, as he has done previously, but contributed $1 million to his campaign in the third quarter.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum – a former software executive who self-financed much of his early campaign – announced he had more than $2.2 million available for the primary.

DeSantis had previously announced raising $15 million across several affiliated committees during the third quarter.

Sunday’s filings show that the Florida governor took in a little more than $11 million through his main campaign account during the quarter and spent much of it.

Payroll topped the DeSantis campaign’s expenses, at more than $1.2 million, though the report showed its staff size shrinking to about 60 people by the final month of the quarter.

DeSantis’ team slashed positions over the summer, and it recently announced that about a third of his staff would shift to Iowa, underscoring the importance of the lead-off caucuses to the Florida governor’s presidential hopes.

A fierce battle is underway among Republican candidates seeking to persuade the party’s wealthy donors to back them as the main alternative to Trump. Aides to DeSantis, Haley and Scott all trekked to Texas on Friday to make pitches before a group of billionaires who are part of the American Opportunity Alliance – with each camp arguing that their candidate had a path to the nomination.

Trump, however, has dominated the field in polling and fundraising, and his aides have said he will report having $36 million available for the primaries. (Trump’s campaign has said his political operation took in $45.5 million during the third quarter, but that includes money raised through his joint fundraising committee, which also shares proceeds with Trump’s leadership PAC and will not report details of its financial activity until next year.)

Struggle to break through

Pence’s financial struggles highlight the difficulty Trump’s onetime running mate has faced in breaking through this year, despite his name recognition and long political career as an Indiana congressman and governor and vice president.

Signs of that financial strain became apparent when Pence on Thursday filed for the state-run Nevada presidential primary, rather than party-run caucuses – which come with a $55,000 filing fee and are being used to determine allocation of delegates to next year’s Republican convention.

Pence told reporters in New Hampshire this past week that his campaign will “probably have to be a little bit more selective in where we invest resources.”

Pence also said that he’s still working on gaining enough small-dollar donors to qualify for the third GOP primary debate next month in Miami. Participants must hit at least 4% in multiple polls and collect campaign money from at least 70,000 unique donors, among other requirements.

Sunday’s filings show Pence’s debts were owed to two Virginia-based companies for direct-mail consulting and postage expenses. His campaign has relied heavily on mail to reach the necessary number of donors to qualify for the Republican debates.

The FEC reports also highlight the dire financial picture of former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s campaign. Hutchinson, who failed to qualify for the second Republican debate last month, ended September with a little more than $325,000 remaining in his campaign’s cash reserves.

As Republicans jockey for position, President Joe Biden’s campaign announced Sunday that he had raised more than $71 million for his campaign and the Democratic Party in the third quarter of the year – far outpacing what Trump and the rest of the GOP primary field had reported raising as of Sunday afternoon.

This story has been updated with additional information.

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Pence and other long-shot GOP candidates face financial warning signs as 2024 approaches