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Oil and gas cash for Trump in 2020 trails previous GOP candidates

President Donald Trump's campaign is trailing previous Republican presidential campaigns in the amount of cash raised from oil and gas industry donors, although the campaign is well ahead of the tepid amount of cash the oil and gas industry gave Trump in 2016, according to federal elections data.

Individual donors and political action committees donated just over $2 million to Trump's campaign, according to Federal Election Commission data through July 16 as organized by the Center for Responsive Politics. That's more than twice the amount Trump saw from the oil and gas industry for the full 2016 campaign and almost seven times more than opponent Joe Biden has seen for the 2020 race.

Oil and gas contributions to the election have been subdued compared to 2016 because of the economic crisis and the fact that 2016 saw three pro-oil and gas Texans running in the Republican primary: former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Bush alone raised more than $10 million for his short-lived campaign.

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"Giving money is harder when the market is weak and it would be a mistake to overlook that cyclicality," energy policy analyst Kevin Book of ClearView Energy Partners LLC said July 22. Book, who cautioned that he is not a political handicapper, expected donations to Trump will pick up as the election nears but probably will not reach levels seen by previous Republican candidates. "Companies that are undergoing catastrophic commodity price collapses are going to tend to be less generous."

Oil and gas donors were blindsided in 2016 by Trump, an insurgent candidate with a populist message, Book said. "[Trump] celebrated oil and gas, but he wasn't singing from the traditional GOP globalist psalter. He wasn't talking about the multinationals who do a lot of fundraising; he was talking about a lot of the independent companies who operate inside of U.S. borders."

"If you look at where he was doing his energy speeches, he was doing them up in the Bakken, not down in Houston. If you want to see Houston money you go to Houston," Book said.

Trump's administration has not done much for oil and gas company stocks, oil analyst Paul Sankey with Sankey Research LLC said. "Trump has been huge for refiners on tax cuts and small refiner exemptions from [Renewable Identification Numbers, or RINs]. Not a lot could be done about the oil price. But it is ironic that the oil sector basically did well under Obama and got absolutely destroyed under Trump, in the market."

RINs are used to track credits for biofuel produced to comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Renewable Fuel Standards program.

Whatever the dollar amounts, Trump is confident of his support from the oil and gas industry. "I saved the oil industry. Two months ago, I saved the oil industry ... we saved it so Texas is not going to have to let go of millions and millions of people," Trump said after a July 13 panel at the White House.

Book pointed out the 2020 election choice is becoming increasingly binary as Democrats pursue a green agenda. "In an ordinary campaign, you tack to the center, but this is a 'bring out your base' election," Book said. "I don't think you're going to see a lot of heavy industry in general, never mind oil and gas, saying, 'Boy, this [Biden] is what we've been looking for.'"