When Jeb Bush withdrew from the 2016 Presidential race this past Saturday, it was a stunning development. Who would have predicted this just a year ago? At that time Bush had set a fundraising goal of $100 million. On behalf of Bush, the Right to Rise USA, raised well above $100 million during 2015. With that kind of financing it would seem almost impossible for a candidate to be out of the race before Super Tuesday. What happened? Did Jeb mess up that badly?
I would argue that by conventional standards Bush did not make any one colossal mistake during his campaign that doomed him. He carried out a conventional campaign and he didn’t say or do anything that created a firestorm of controversy. Yes, he did not come across as energetic and he seemed a little awkward during the debates, but he had been out of politics for a while and was a little rusty. Under normal circumstances, he would have had time to compensate for his slow start and with such vast sums of money at his disposal, he certainly had the means to be competitive well into the campaign.
It was Bush’s campaign strategy that did doom him. He was beat before it ever began. Clinton and Sanders can scream all they want about campaign finance reform, but in reality, while money is essential to winning the Presidency, it can only go so far. People have minds of their own. Also, don’t forget about something called free press. Bush’s super PAC spent $116 million dollars as of Saturday and this is what they had to show for it: 4 delegates out of the 132 that have been awarded. If you take $116 million and divide it by 4, that comes to $29 million per delegate. It takes 1237 delegates to win the GOP nomination. Temporarily setting aside all other factors, if it takes $29 million to win each delegate, then if Bush had raised $36 BILLION, he may have eventually won the GOP nomination. That doesn’t even account for how much he would have had to spend to win the general election. (It should be noted that Clinton hasn’t turned down the $53 million supplied by allied super PACs and other affiliated groups. Aside from Jeb Bush, that is the most outside funding any candidate has raised).
Here is a nice summary regarding how much each campaign has raised thus far.
Sanders loves to prey upon people’s fear that large corporations and the super wealthy control everything. An analysis of how much each campaign has raised and spent would prove otherwise. The amount of money raised isn’t having a proportional impact on the voting. Combining all sources of funding, Clinton has raised $183 million while Sanders has raised $99 million. However, despite this vast difference, Clinton lost to Sanders in the New Hampshire primary by nearly 60,000 votes and has yet to defeat him handily in any primary or caucus.
The current delegate tally for the Democratic Party is very interesting.
Clinton currently has 505 delegates to Sanders’ 71. Unlike the Republican Party, the leadership of the Democratic Party can exert a lot of influence in choosing the eventual nominee (i.e. Super delegates). Think about it: Sanders is trying to win the Democratic nomination on the pretense of giving the average person a greater voice in government, yet given the current delegate tally, simply earning a majority of the popular vote isn’t going to be enough for him to accomplish that goal. Both Parties have Super delegates: Delegates that can vote however they wish. This is opposed to delegates who have an obligation to vote for a candidate based on election or caucus results. The GOP has relatively few Super delegates (roughly 7% of all delegates), whereas the Democratic Party has enough Super delegates (20%) to impact the actual choice of nominee. Therefore Sanders can win a lot of primaries and caucuses, but that alone won’t do it.
One would have to be incredibly naive not to think that elected officials in each party don’t have large donors whose interests they will serve. If such individuals exert influence on the Democratic leadership, it would be highly unlikely they would pressure anyone into voting for Sanders given what he wants to do to Wall Street. It would be just the opposite.
Donald Trump is the only billionaire in the Presidential race, but ironically, his success actually proves money doesn’t necessarily win elections. Amongst GOP candidates the overall fund raising tally stands at: $101 million for Cruz, $88 million for Rubio, $70 million for Carson, $29 million for Kasich, and $25 million for Trump. Obviously being wealthy is a benefit to Trump. A large part of his campaign donations have come from him, BUT, given the results, and the amount of money his campaign has spent relative to the other campaigns, he can’t be accused of ‘buying’ the election. It would be one thing if he had spent $200 million to get to this point, but he hasn’t. Perhaps you could argue fame wins elections (see Ventura wins Minnesota Governorship), but not money. Money is secondary to the message and values represented by a candidate.
I don’t think Trump would have stood a chance running in 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, or even 2012, but 2016? Different story. Jeb Bush proved something as his campaign raised and spent massive amounts of money: You can’t use conventional strategy to defeat a non-conventional opponent. Most of the time, Bush’s strategy would have worked. He attacked the opponents that would have been his greatest opponents in regards to securing the GOP establishment vote. Hence, the campaign spent money on attack ads targeting Rubio and Kasich. That was a conventional tactic. Unfortunately for Bush, it was akin to using a flamethrower to take out a few mosquitoes while ignoring the hornet’s nest just above your head. Bush never paid attention to the real threat: Trump.
It’s easy to look at things in hindsight and point out what went wrong. It’s also easy to understand why they went wrong. When Trump announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination last year, how many people would have thought he could actually secure it? My initial thinking was that it would be highly unlikely for an outsider like him to come in and do what he has done. I thought he would provide some entertainment before alienating enough people to sink his campaign. It just didn’t seem possible he could mount a long-term successful campaign as a political neophyte who speaks his mind. Why would any of the other campaigns focus their strategy solely on beating Trump? They probably thought he would self-destruct and/or that the polls have been wrong all this time.
Now, Trump is the clear front-runner. He isn’t a fad. He has earned actual votes and actual delegates. He must be taken seriously. At the same time it’s scary as well. To quote Ted Cruz: “Who knows what the heck Donald Trump would do as President?”
What is it about 2016 that makes a Trump White House a very real possibility? We have one man to thank for it: President Obama. Thank you Mr. President. This is exactly what happens when you force political correctness down our throats, socialize medicine and education, make illogical deals with Iran, push to bring Guantanamo detainees to the United States, use rhetoric that divides, rather than unites people, let illegal immigrants pour into the United States, push for more gun control, issue tons of executive orders to circumvent congress, leave the homeland less secure and overall make the United States look like a timid coward on the the international stage. After 8 years of that sort of thing, many people have had enough.
Obama’s legacy isn’t going to be anything he believes he might have accomplished as President, it will most likely be President Donald Trump and whatever he does as President. Whether by accident or design, Trump has struck a chord with a lot of people. It isn’t about race and I don’t want to hear about that. The fact is the Obama has been a weak President and people are ticked off about it. There are still plenty of people around who have fought in foreign wars, prospered as business people, and have lived their lives as proud hard-working Americans and have seen the country prosper. They all feel betrayed by President Obama and it has created intense anger. It’s about patriotism. If you make people feel ashamed to be an American, if you make people feel helpless to control the direction of this country, if you totally ignore the opinions of others, it creates a thirst for something radically different. It creates a cause to rally around. Donald Trump has become the face for that anger and the central point of the rally. Right or wrong, I don’t even think people care what Trump says or who he offends. All his supporters care about is that he doesn’t care about niceties. The man talks tough and he doesn’t apologize for it. He is the very embodiment of the inevitable backlash created by a weak President. Trump is the exact opposite. He also seems bulletproof. Any negative publicity generated towards him actually has the opposite effect and makes him even more the hero. A blow against Trump is perceived by many as a blow against themselves.
Also, it wouldn’t be fair to blame Obama alone for this predicament. The GOP-controlled Congress has basically left Obama unchecked when they should have fought him tooth and nail. Votes for Trump aren’t just a repudiation of Obama but also the entire GOP establishment. This is what happens when you stand by and do nothing or take more central-leaning stances as opposed to more right-leaning stances. Ted Cruz already figured this out and that was how he was going to play it. He was going to be the person to re-infuse the GOP with conservative values, but how do you contend with someone like Trump? Cruz has angered the GOP establishment, but if elected President, he would operate within certain parameters. Trump would be an unbelievably interesting President as it’s impossible to even define any kinds of parameters he would apply to himself. Cruz would have been a bitter pill for the GOP to have swallowed, but Trump???
If Trump secures the requisite number of delegates through elections then the GOP will have to recognize him as their nominee. It’s possible the establishment might use the very confusing Rule 40 at the GOP Convention to derail Trump, but at his current rate it would be utter chaos for the GOP to do that. The voice of the people has to be followed. In what would truly be one of the most unprecedented, bizarre, and outlandish events in American history, the GOP may have to learn its lesson and accept its punishment by listening to Trump’s acceptance speech. It will be fascinating to watch the faces of the GOP as Trump discusses his own unique vision for America without regard to the GOP’s official stance on anything. It would be the lone wolf loose cannon unleashed.
Time is running out for the other GOP candidates to beat Trump. Jeb Bush did the right thing, he dropped out of the race, winnowing down the field. Others need to follow his lead. Carson and Kasich are good men, but neither has a legitimate shot at beating Trump. It’s time for the GOP to do some serious self-introspection and face facts. Anyone who gets within even smelling distance of the most powerful position in the world is going to be tempted to fight for it. You don’t get to the White House without a ton of ambition. Anyone can understand that, but at the same time you can’t let that ambition get in the way of your values. Sometimes you have to take one for the team. Only Cruz and Rubio can beat Trump, but unless something changes very dramatically and very fast, it’s over. You can’t beat an unconventional candidate with conventional strategy and at this point no one has the luxury of contemplating their next move. You have to think pretty darn fast and just as importantly, act real fast. You have to be just as unconventional. I know they have a lot of differences between them, but Cruz and Rubio need to find common ground and team up. It would take a lot of compromises and it would be very hard to figure out which one will go for President and which will be the VP on such a ticket, its a complex situation. However, it sure as heck would be an unconventional move. As the old adage goes ‘it’s better to hang together than to hang separately.” They may not be able to beat Trump separately, but there’s a good chance they could do it together. Politics sometimes makes for really strange bedfellows.