JUDY WOODRUFF: We turn now to the race for the White House and zero in for a moment on the money chase.
One of Donald Trump's main pitches to GOP primary voters was that, by funding his own campaign, he wasn't beholden to big donors. But, tonight, the presumptive Republican nominee holds his first official fund-raiser in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Here to discuss the shift and what Trump's goals are for the rest of the campaign is Matea Gold. She covers money in politics for The Washington Post.
Matea, welcome back to the program.
So, as we just said, Donald Trump holding his first fund-raiser tonight, well behind the other candidates, certainly well behind Hillary Clinton. How much of a difference does that make?
MATEA GOLD, The Washington Post: Well, Trump has set a very ambitious goal for his joint fund-raising operation with the Republican National Committee.
That's $1 billion by Election Day, which comes out to about $250 million a month for the next five months. So, he has a lot of work to do. He doesn't have a formal fund-raising structure. So, unlike Hillary Clinton, who has a very robust national network of donors, he is just now in the process of identifying fund-raisers throughout the country, bringing people on board to help bring in the big dollars to really finance that fall get-out-the-vote effort that will be so critical.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, again, as we have said, Matea, Donald Trump has been saying for months that big donors are bad in politics. He has been critical of other candidates and their big donors.
How does his campaign explain the shift now?
MATEA GOLD: Well, they are, I think, struggling to try to frame how this pivot is really working.
On the one hand, Trump and his top aides are maintaining that he's still really just raising money for the party, when, in fact, the joint fund-raising agreement that he has with the RNC does divert a substantial amount of money directly into his campaign. The first $5,400 of any donation that a contributor makes goes directly to Trump for President.
And he's trying to maintain, though, that the bulk of this money will go to finance the party's get-out-the-vote effort and also that, even if donors do give small amounts of money, he is worth $10 billion, and he cannot be bought by wealthy contributors, the way he maintained other politicians can.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, do we know how much he's really going to need? You said they're saying $1 billion, but he has certainly got by on a lot less than that during the primary season.
He got so much news coverage, he didn't need the kind of traditional TV advertising other candidates do. So, what do the people you talk to think he's going to need?
MATEA GOLD: Well, I think most veteran party fund-raisers privately agree $1 billion is incredibly ambitious and difficult to pull off.
And, as you point out, he might not need that much. We haven't seen him need to put the kind of millions of dollars into television advertising that the other candidates have had to do. He will, however, need a really robust on-the-ground field effort to identify voters and turn them out to the polls.
That's something the party's going to take the lead on, but that's something they need substantial resources to finance.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, we also know, Matea, there have been a number of stories about big Republican — wealthy Republican donors either being reluctant or just saying flat out they're unwilling to give Donald Trump money. Where does that stand? I know you did some reporting on that today.
MATEA GOLD: Well, what's really remarkable is, we're seeing a coalescing of the top donor and fund-raising class in the party coming around Trump.
People who were ardent backers of Jeb Bush, for example, who was really pounded by Trump in the primaries, major backers of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and other candidates have really come to the conclusion that between the choice of Trump and likely Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton in the fall, they're going to put their investment with Trump.
And so I think it's been incredibly striking to see how many of them have signed up to help on this effort.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, do you think, between now and Election Day, we are going to see a steady stream of fund-raisers that Donald Trump is going to have to be taking part in?
MATEA GOLD: Well, it remains to be seen how many he will be willing to take part in. He's doing one tonight in Albuquerque, and another really high-dollar event in Los Angeles later this week that is set to bring in as much as $5 million.
But, you know, at this time four years ago, Governor Romney was doing 50 events over the summer. That's a big chunk of your schedule to take out for fund-raisers, not something that Donald Trump necessarily has interest in doing. But I think a lot of fund-raisers are telling him he's going to have to step up to the plate.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Matea Gold, watching this every day for The Washington Post, we thank you.
MATEA GOLD: My pleasure.