Clinton is vastly outspending Trump on ads. Is it hurting him?

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U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton waves as she departs a gathering of law enforcement leaders outside of John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, U.S., August 18, 2016.  REUTERS/Lucas Jackson  - RTX2LV7K

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JUDY WOODRUFF: We begin tonight with politics, and the role of money in the campaign for the White House.

New Federal Election Commission reports spell out how much each of the candidates has raised and spent so far. For the Democrats, Hillary Clinton spent nearly $49 million in July, while Republican Donald Trump spent $18.4 million, a little over a third of what Clinton spent. Since the race began, the Clinton campaign has spent $319 million, while the Trump campaign has spent $89.5 million.

We catch up on all of this now with Matea Gold. She covers money and influence for The Washington Post.

And we welcome you back to the “NewsHour.”

MATEA GOLD, The Washington Post: Great to be with you.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Matea, when you look at these numbers that we have just cited of what these two candidates have spent, what does that tell you about their priorities?

MATEA GOLD: Well, I have to say, when Donald Trump’s filing came in late Saturday night, it was incredibly surprising. He had actually had a very successful fund-raising month in July. He actually almost matched Clinton and the DNC through his fund-raising in conjunction with the RNC.

So, we expected to see a lot of spending. But, really, this is a reflection of the completely unorthodox approach that Trump has taken to this campaign. He actually really has scoffed at some of the traditional campaign investments that you see campaigns making over the years.

So, for one, he doesn’t believe in expensive TV ads. He’s just starting that right now. And he hasn’t built a big infrastructure on the ground. And those are the two big differences.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And speaking — one way to look at infrastructure, I guess, is the number of staff they have hired. And you look at that and you see that in these numbers of what you found in their filings.

MATEA GOLD: Yes, it’s really remarkable, Judy.

So, by the end of July, Clinton had 705 paid staffers, and Trump had 82, barely just maybe a half-dozen more than he had in June. This is a period of time that both of the candidates were receiving their nominations at the conventions, a time when candidates traditionally are gearing up for the final four months of campaign.

And, really, what’s happening here is Donald Trump is leaning on the Republican National Committee, the national party, to provide the kind of ground voter motivation that often usually the candidate takes the lead in doing.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And when you contrast, I think, the size of — the small size of Donald Trump’s staff compared to previous presidential campaigns, it’s really — it’s a notable difference.

MATEA GOLD: No, there is no comparison.

And what of the things that I think worries actually Trump allies is that he’s too vulnerable by leaning on the RNC in this way. If Trump’s numbers do not improve late in the fall, if the RNC decides to have its folks on the ground focus on Senate and House candidates, as opposed to really pushing their presidential candidate, he really won’t have anyone there to make up the difference.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, Matea, you also told us, it’s interesting when you look at these numbers, how much they spent on television on advertising. What do you find there?

MATEA GOLD: They’re really mind-blowing.

By the end of July, Clinton’s campaign had already spent $108 million on TV production and airtime. They just announced today another $80 million on national cable. Trump, by comparison, last week launched his first general election ad, $4.8 million.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And what is the campaign — what is the Trump camp saying about this?

MATEA GOLD: So, their argument is, they don’t need television in the way that she does. He has a huge megaphone through earned media, as we have talked about already in this election.

His every remark, every speech…

JUDY WOODRUFF: News coverage.

MATEA GOLD: Exactly. His every remark and every tweet gets incredibly amplified through the media.

And he reaches people directly through social media, so they really don’t feel like they have to spend in the ways that she does. And, in fact, we saw that this race was very tight up and through the summer until the conventions, at the time she was spending a lot on television. And that validated their theory of theirs.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, let’s look, Matea, at where the money is coming from.

The campaigns confirmed some numbers we actually saw a few days ago, that she raised aids about $90 million in July, he raised about $82 million. It sounds like relative parity there, but what more is there to see?

MATEA GOLD: Well, one of the mysteries of Trump’s filing is why there wasn’t more in his actual campaign account by the end of the month.

His campaign has said they had raised about $64 million online and through direct mail with the party. We thought we would see most of that in his campaign. He ended up just reporting $36 million in his campaign, which suggests a lot of that money hasn’t been transferred over from the joint fund-raising committee or has been spent in another way.

And…

JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me just stop you there.

MATEA GOLD: Sure.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Explain the difference between the joint fund-raising committee and the campaign, those two pots.

MATEA GOLD: Yes.

So, there’s — both of the candidates actually are working through two joint fund-raising committees. It’s basically a committee that raises money for both the campaign and the national party and splits the proceeds. And so a share of the money that goes into the joint fund-raising committee legally goes to the campaign. Another share goes to the national party.

And, usually, the small donations end up with the campaign. And those are really traditionally the most valuable, because the candidate controls that money and can really direct those resources.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And speaking of small donations, it’s interesting how much of the money — to look at how much came from donors giving $200 or less, with Clinton, $62 million, 18 percent of what she raised. But, for Trump, it was 30 — over 30 percent.

MATEA GOLD: There is no question that, as soon as he finally began fund-raising, he tapped into incredible enthusiasm among his supporters, and, in fact, caught, I think, the Clinton campaign by surprise with how much money he was able to raise so quickly online through small donors.

And he’s also put in a large share of his own money, $52 million by the end of July, into this presidential bid.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Fascinating. One month’s reporting, there’s a lot there.

Matea Gold with The Washington Post, we thank you.

MATEA GOLD: Thank you.

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