President Donald Trump is edging out Democratic nominee Joe Biden in political donations from members of the military, even as more U.S. troops say they would vote for Biden over their current commander in chief.
Trump has raised nearly $1.1 million from military members, compared to roughly $859,000 for Biden. Trump receives far more campaign cash from members of the U.S. Air Force and beats out Biden among members of the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps. Biden fares better with members of the Department of Defense and U.S. Navy.
The president’s campaign cash lead with military donors was much higher when earlier this cycle when he had a larger overall fundraising advantage over Biden. That narrow lead could continue to slip when the campaigns officially report their August fundraising figures, as Biden raised record money last month.
Trump has claimed he has strong support from the military, touting pay raises he and Congress authorized for active-duty troops. But a recent Military Times poll found that Biden leads Trump by 4 points among active-duty troops. Roughly 38 percent of active-duty troops said they had a favorable view of Trump, compared to 50 percent holding an unfavorable view of the president.
The president’s support with the military has declined during the course of his presidency. A 2016 Military Times poll found that Trump had a 2-to-1 lead over then Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. At the start of his presidency, Trump’s approval with troops sat at 46 percent. His decline has come amid criticism from former high-ranking defense officials. The most shocking rebuke came from former Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who described the president as a threat to the Constitution after Trump sent troops into Washington, D.C., to quell protests.
Citing anonymous officials at the Defense Department and U.S. Marine Corps, The Atlantic reported last week that Trump described dead American troops as “losers” and “suckers.”
Trump strongly denied the report, calling it “Fake News.” Trump has previously disparaged military heroes in front of large audiences, including the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), saying in 2015, “I like people who weren’t captured.” He’s also publicly feuded with Gold Star families.
Biden does best compared to Trump with donors from the U.S. Navy. Trump clashed with Navy leadership and fired Navy Secretary Richard Spencer over the department’s handling of a Navy Seal accused of war crimes who was pardoned by Trump. Trump also fired a Navy captain who wrote a letter to military leadership asking for help with a COVID-19 outbreak on his warship. That captain, Brett Crozier, received a roaring applause from his crew when he left the ship.
TRUMP: “I’m not saying the military’s in love with me. The soldiers are. The top people in the Pentagon probably aren’t because they want to do nothing but fight wars, so all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs and make the planes and make everything else stay happy”
— Josh Caplan (@joshdcaplan) September 7, 2020
Biden has sought to make inroads with former military officials who have expressed disgust with Trump’s presidency. More than 70 former senior national security officials, all Republicans, endorsed Biden last month, calling Trump “unfit to lead.”
Former Secretary of State and four-star general Colin Powell endorsed Biden during the Democratic National Convention, calling the Democrat “a president we will all be proud to salute.” Trump responded on Twitter by calling Powell “a real stiff who was responsible for getting us into the disastrous Middle East Wars.”