The G.O.P. Donor Great Resignation

Major donors remain on the sidelines, and are now unlikely to encourage the party to consolidate around a Trump alternative. Photo: Scott Eisen/Getty Images
Theodore Schleifer
December 12, 2023

Just over eight years ago, on the eve of the last open Republican primary, hedge fund founder Paul Singer hit send on an 1,100 word email that he hoped would be a clarion call to his fellow billionaires, declaring that he had “decided to support Senator Marco Rubio,” and urging them to open their checkbooks, too. It was October 2015, and donors were struggling to coalesce behind a challenger to Donald Trump. Singer whipped and whipped, and his first event for Rubio raised some $3 million—the Florida senator’s single biggest fundraiser—and for the next few months he seemed to levitate in the polls until he eventually suspended his campaign, after placing second to Trump in his home state. 

Nearly a decade later, the rules of engagement have been rewritten for many Republican donors. Six weeks after the same point in the 2024 cycle, no Singer-like force is emerging. Instead, many are overcome by an incredible sense of pre-Iowa déjà vu, even as the G.O.P.’s leading financiers debate what they can learn from 2016 and what, if anything, they can possibly do differently this time around. Perhaps, some argue, it’s not even worth trying.