It’s the morning after Donald Trump’s 2024 campaign announcement and major donors are already running for the hills. Blackstone co-founder and CEO Stephen Schwarzman declared that he will not be backing Donald Trump in his renewed bid for the presidency. Schwarzman is the second high-level Trump donor to say he’s taking his money elsewhere in the last two weeks.
In a statement to Axios announcing his decision, Schwarzman indicated he believes “it is time for the Republican Party to turn to a new generation of leaders and I intend to support one of them in the presidential primaries.”
It didn’t end there. Later on Wednesday, longtime Trump ally and billionaire heir to the Estée Lauder fortune Ronald Lauder said he wouldn’t be supporting the former president’s latest White House run.
Last week, Citadel’s billionaire founder Ken Griffin revealed to Politico that he is dropping his support for the former president and instead endorsing Florida Governor Ron DeSantis if he chooses to run. “For a litany of reasons, I think it’s time to move on to the next generation,” Griffin explained. Asked about his potential support for DeSantis replied that “the bigger question is, is he going to run? That bridge has to be crossed.”
Donors defecting to a potential DeSantis campaign has weighed heavily on Trump’s mind, and is a likely factor in the growing tension between the Florida GOP titans. DeSantis has been raking in millions from wealthy donors who were integral to Trump’s campaigns, and as Rolling Stone reported in June, Trump has been worried over DeSantis’ growing popularity, fearing donors were eyeing “a newer, fresher face.” Despite DeSantis having yet to announce any intent to run, Trump has been publicly lashing out at his – still completely hypothetical – rival.
Trump spent the last days of campaigning before the midterms throwing jabs at DeSantis, dubbing him “Ron DeSanctimonious” in front of a crowd in Pennsylvania, and leaving him off the guest list of a Miami rally. More insidiously, the former president has been soliciting inflammatory gossip on the Florida governor, and indicating that he’s willing to air out whatever dirty laundry he finds.
The loss of major donors is an inauspicious start for a president whose own party may be eying the exits of Trumpism. Following a lackluster performance by Trump-endorsed candidates in the midterm elections, the party seems fully engaged in a come-to-Jesus (or at least run-from-Don) moment of introspection about their former president’s role in the party’s future.
On top of that, the formal announcement of his re-election campaign will bring significant changes to Trump’s operation. He can no longer freely use the slush fund of political action committee cash he accumulated over almost two years of pseudo-campaigning and skirting campaign finance laws. The money could legally fund just about everything Trump did – except a campaign. Trump now faces the prospect of convincing the big wallets that the political winds are in his sails, an especially difficult task considering he couldn’t even convince all of hischildren to attend his campaign announcement.