SHARONVILLE, Ohio – Donald Trump’s first Cincinnati fundraiser attracted some top local business leaders and a few Republican Party leaders.
In the days leading up to Trump’s fundraiser at the Sharonville Convention Center Wednesday night, many major GOP donors and politicians were mum on their attendance. WCPO contacted more than 30 loyal Republicans in Cincinnati, many of whom declined comment.
But a few were spotted walking into the convention center on the way to take a photo or shake hands with Trump.
Hamilton County GOP Chairman Alex Triantafilou took a break from his vacation to fly into Cincinnati and attend both the fundraiser and the rally Wednesday.
“He was pretty engaging, one-on-one,” Triantafilou said of his time with Trump. “He was chatting it up with me; he was really friendly to the whole team.”
Triantafilou was joined at the fundraiser by well-known Cincinnati names, including Western & Southern Financial Group CEO John Barrett, Mercer Reynolds, a prominent Republican donor who earned a spot on George W. Bush’s presidential campaign and Debbie Boehner, the wife of former Speaker of the House John Boehner.
Andrew Pappas, a Republican who is hoping to unseat Democrat Todd Portune for a seat on the Hamilton County Commission, told WCPO last week that he would not attend the fundraiser because of the steep $2,700 ticket price.
But he changed his mind after the FBI declined to prosecute Hillary Clinton over her email scandal.
“If that $2,700 will keep Hillary Clinton out of the White House, I’ll gladly pay,” Pappas said. “You may not like Donald Trump, and I've personally heard that from some Republicans …. However I am wholeheartedly prepared to do whatever I have to do as far as offering financial and other support.”
Pappas said he had a great time at the fundraiser, he got a photo with Newt Gingrich and afterwards led the Pledge of Allegiance at the rally.
"Given the time frame and time constraints I thought it was well attended,” Pappas said, noting the fundraiser was put together on short notice during a holiday week when many were on vacation.
Triantafilou estimated at least 30 people attended the fundraiser and said some supporters might not have attended the fundraiser Wednesday but still sent Trump and the party a check.
Trump’s Cincinnati fundraiser came on the same day his latest fundraising numbers were released. While he still trails Democratic rival Hillary Clinton’s cash war chest, he raised an estimated $26 million for his campaign.
But many of those donations – 94 percent of them – were donations of $200 or less. That’s unusual for a Republican presidential candidate, who oftentimes rely on big-dollar donations to campaign In 2012, for example, nearly 40 percent of the donations Mitt Romney received were max contributions of $2,500.
That suggests Trump will need to tap a different type of donor this election cycle – and he might have missed out on earning small-dollar donations through the primary season.
“Trump’s biggest supporters don’t go to high dollar donor events,” said David Niven, a political science professor at the University of Cincinnati. “He really missed that kind of $25 donor who likes Bernie Sanders. He never built that structure. Tens of millions of dollars were left on the table.”