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“No Special-Interest Contributions?”: Will Trump Have To Go On A Fund-Raising Binge If He Wins The GOP Nomination?

One of the big story lines of the presidential cycle is that candidates other than front-runner Donald J. Trump have spent a lot more money on themselves and against him than he’s had to expend, enabling him to pose as the guy too rich (and too popular with small donors) to be vulnerable to “bribery.” This was exemplified by the failed effort by Marco Rubio and an assortment of conservative groups to take down Trump in Florida. Anti-Trump “independent” ads alone in the Sunshine State cost an estimated $35.5 million. Total spending by Trump and his supporters for the entire campaign nationwide is at $25.8 million.

Trump’s difference-maker financially, of course, has been his massive advantage in “earned media” (or what used to be called “free media,” because it’s provided by media coverage free of charge). MediaQuant, a firm that measures and values unpaid media coverage, estimates that Trump has harvested nearly $1.9 billion in earned media this cycle. That’s about twice as much as Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, and Jeb Bush combined have received, and within shouting distance of being twice as much as the two Democratic candidates combined as well.

But general-election campaigns are a lot more expensive than primaries. So it’s not surprising that Trump has hedged on repeating his “no special-interest contributions” pledge beyond the Republican Convention in July, and CNN is reporting that he’s already planning a big fund-raising blitz for the general election.

At The American Prospect, Eliza Newlin Carney puts all this together and suggests that total campaign costs are about to become too high for Trump to perpetually surf earned media to victory:

So far, Trump has enjoyed an extraordinary political ride, fending off millions worth of hostile attacks, prevailing against opponents who out-organized and outspent him, and sparing himself the punishing grind of high-dollar fundraisers. He’s also gotten considerable political mileage out of his claim to be above the big money fray. It remains to be seen whether Trump can continue playing by his own rules, or whether he will be forced to get his hands dirty in the messy business of campaign financing—and answer for it to voters.

But there are two factors that undercut this possibility. For one thing, Trump could liquidate some of his assets (estimated independently as having a value of about $4.5 billion) and self-finance to a considerable extent. And for another, this long nominating contest season in both parties is shortening the general-election campaign and the time and cost of any “air war.” Additionally, earned media is much easier to come by in presidential general elections than any other mode of politics, sometimes dwarfing paid media even when there’s not a wildly entertaining and galvanizing figure like Donald Trump in the fray. So it might make sense for Trump to wait and see if he even needs to spend a lot of money. At the current trajectory Americans won’t grow totally bored with the wiggy dude until some time well into 2017.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, March 17, 2016

March 19, 2016 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Donald Trump, Special Interest Groups | , , , , | Leave a comment

“GOP Establishment Is Beginning To Panic”: Are Republican Voters Going To Come To Their Senses About Donald Trump?

The metaphor most often used about Donald Trump’s candidacy these days is that he’s “defying gravity,” which implies that while a real candidate can rise and then stay high all the way to the nomination, a candidate like Trump is supposed to bounce up and then fall back down to earth. But even as Trump is no longer enjoying the blanket coverage that he did a month or two ago, he’s still leading the Republican field.

Meanwhile, the candidate in second place, Ben Carson, is every bit Trump’s equal when it comes to policy ignorance, appalling statements, and the potential for a disastrous general election. The establishment’s early choice, Jeb Bush, has cratered, while its second choice, Marco Rubio, is creeping up slowly, but so far seems to be generating much more interest from funders and strategists than from actual voters.

So as Byron York reports today, the GOP establishment is beginning to panic, about Trump in particular:

This weekend was an inflection point in the Republican presidential race — a moment in which some significant part of the GOP establishment came out of denial and realized Donald Trump might well become their party’s nominee.

“The Republican establishment, for the first time, is saying, off the record, this guy can win,” noted Joe Scarborough on MSNBC Monday morning. “I’ve heard that from everybody. I don’t hear anybody saying he can’t win the nomination anymore.”

That doesn’t mean Republicans have made their peace with a Trump victory. On the contrary — some are preparing to do whatever it takes to bring him down. Which could lead to an extraordinary scenario in which GOP stalwarts go to war to destroy their own party’s likely nominee.

The trouble is that they don’t have much of a war plan, partly because “the establishment” is far less organized and unified than you might think, and partly because there are only so many tools at their disposal. There’s talk of a large TV ad campaign against Trump, built on “the political insiders’ unshakable faith that negative ads work.” You can also see that faith in this interview with longtime GOP strategist Mike Murphy, who’s running Jeb Bush’s “Right to Rise” Super PAC. Murphy’s argument for why Jeb is still the candidate to beat, despite the fact that his support has fallen to single digits and he’s now in fourth or fifth place in most polls, is essentially that Jeb will win because unlike the other candidates, he has a lot of money to run ads.

Ads can work, in the right context (though they have a short half-life; their effect tends to fade quickly). But they’re not a guarantee of anything, particularly when you have a candidate who has performed as poorly as Jeb, whose latest genius campaign maneuver is getting into an argument with Trump about whether his brother was actually president when the September 11 attacks happened. And the truth is that while Jeb may have raised the most money, some other candidates aren’t doing too badly either, particularly Carson and Ted Cruz.

In any case, the theory underlying not just Jeb’s candidacy but also Rubio’s is that eventually, the voters will come around to someone reasonable. They may need to be pushed in the right direction, but they can’t stick with the likes of Trump and Carson forever. The lower-tier candidates will drop out, the voters will coalesce around a smaller number of alternatives, and the choice will become clear, at which point one of the sane candidates will win.

Which could well happen. But by now, we should be wary of assuming anything about this race. How many people expected Trump to do as well as he has for as long as he has? The establishment and his opponents have tried a series of arguments against Trump, none of which have worked. He’s not a real conservative. He’s erratic. He’s ignorant. He’s killing us with Hispanics. If he was the nominee, we’d lose in a landslide.

All of which is true, but so far it hasn’t mattered. Trump is still leading, as he has from almost the moment he got into the race. As NBC News said this morning, “Donald Trump and Ben Carson are only getting STRONGER as we head into next week’s third GOP debate.” Nobody supporting Trump is unfamiliar with him; it’s getting less and less likely that an opponent will be able to say, “Did you know this about Trump?” and watch his support ebb away. They know who and what he is, and that’s why they’re behind him.

Trump is now putting together an actual campaign organization, with things like ballot-access specialists and ground operatives, which he didn’t have before. As Ron Brownstein points out, “Trump is ce­ment­ing a strong blue-col­lar base, while the white-col­lar voters re­l­at­ively more res­ist­ant to him have yet to uni­fy around any single al­tern­at­ive.” The longer that unification takes, the better position Trump will be in; it isn’t hard to imagine him winning one early state after another and building up an unstoppable momentum.

Those who have been observing politics for a long time — whether you’re talking about journalists or the insiders now trying to figure out how to stop Trump — still have trouble wrapping their heads around the idea that he could really win. They now acknowledge that it’s possible, but it still seems crazy. Which it certainly is. But it’s looking like the establishment is going to have to do more than wait for primary voters to come to their senses if they want to stop him.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post,  October 20, 2015

October 23, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

“I’m Not Stupid, I’m Me”: First Step For Perry Is Getting Filthy Rich

I read with some amusement Philip Rucker’s WaPo profile of the new, improved Rick Perry. The outgoing governor of Texas wants us all to know that he won’t make the same mistakes in this presidential cycle as in the last, and that he intends to project an image that’s distant from the strutting tear-the-head-off-the-donkey ferocity that excited conservative activists in 2011 before he disgusted them with his talk of compassion for the children of undocumented immigrants.

Unsurprisingly, Perry’s proto-message for 2016 will focus on his “economic miracle” claim, based on the exciting new idea of growing the economy by whorishly giving “investors” any damn thing they want. But as I have myself observed over the years, the trouble with encouraging governors to hang out with extremely rich people in the guise of “economic development” is that they start wondering Why ain’t I as rich as my new friends? And so we read this:

After Republican Greg Abbott is sworn in as governor on Jan. 20, Perry’s immediate priority will be to make serious money, something he has never done. He is considering writing a memoir — how a Boy Scout from Paint Creek became governor and presided over “the Texas miracle” economic boom — as well as giving paid speeches and serving on corporate boards, his advisers say.

So even as he’s sitting there with his tongue lolling out, trying to convince a political reporter he’s rough and ready to leap into a contest that’s already begun, Perry admits he’s going to have to take a little detour to lift himself and his family into the economic stratosphere. For a guy who hasn’t shaken two indictments just yet, he’s awfully confident he can run for president while becoming filthy rich, without engaging in any conflicts of interest or perhaps making voters wonder if he’s just in it for the dough.

Something tells me Ted Cruz is going to eat Perry’s lunch as the candidate of feral Texas conservatives while Perry’s trying to “make serious money” and convince people he’s not as stupid as he sometimes sounded four years ago.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal, The Washington Monthly, December 9, 2014

December 10, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, GOP Presidential Candidates, Rick Perry | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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