The Money Primary: Ted Cruz Thins the Republican Herd and Scares Democrats

Ideas and Issues

2016-money-raceNew Orleans      We now have three elections in the United States.  There’s the general election in 2016 of course when we pull the lever for our candidates, sorting out the ballot babies from the two main contenders offered by the Republicans and Democrats.  There’s the primary election where we poll between candidates earlier in the election year to see who might emerge on the final ballot.   For many of us this is a trivial exercise because our scarlet red states have watched earlier bellwethers, super Tuesdays, and significant prizes earlier in the year. This vote is often more of habit than heart.  And, then there’s the third election that happens much, much earlier where dollars, not votes, are counted that has become one of the most important, if not THE most important, primary operating solely for the one-percenters, deep pocketed, and self-interested where we are ordered to simply watch and wait.

Speaking for this vast, “silent majority,” and I can admit to have been already ticked off seeing Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side pile up such a huge league that the nomination is being all but conceded to her without any of the primaries being conducted, and then Jeb Bush streak to the lead in the Money Primary for the Republicans enough to become almost a frontrunner one day after being uncertain to run the next.  Bush being a Bush, and the Republicans being Republicans, they have become surprisingly committed to chaos and discordant voices, so a score of wannabes remained in the field, no matter how hapless and long their shots might be.

Senator Ted Cruz from Texas was an excellent example, so far right that he seemed the most radical of the crew, a captive of the Tea Party and an anarchist at heart.  The New York Times even ran a piece recently, clipping the heels off his boots by stating that he was less than heartily loved “deep in the heart of Texas.”

But, that was then, and this is now, and the Money Primary allows voting twenty four hours a day, seven days a week and follows its own whim, as money is like to do, not some regular schedule that makes it easy for pundits and papers.  In the Money Primary, Senator Cruz just put a huge ante on the table as his people confirmed that, in what seems like a one-week collection blitz, they scored and have almost finished collecting $31 million for four Super PACs that will coordinate expenditures with each other in support of Cruz.  None of this bundling for him, a Long Island private equity, hedge fund guy seems to have fallen head over heels for Ted and led the big bucks parade.  One veteran Republican fundraiser was quoted by the Times to the effect that most of the big boys would have thought they could raise and budget $30 million for the entire primary season.  With Cruz laying down $31 million almost nine months before the first primaries when all of the rest of us get to come out and play, too, I would bet he just forced the calculations to double to $60 million, maybe even triple towards $100 million for the serious candidates.

The Republicans have already seen one candidate, Mitt Romney, their 2012 standard bearer, pushed out in the Money Primary, when his big rollers told him in so many words, that they had “been there and done that.”  Now with this Cruz news a lot of the little Republicans must have spent some time on the phones and in conference with their families, telling them they would hang in for a hot minute, but their race was “one and done.”  Count Louisiana’s governor, Bobbi Jindal as toast, but Rick Perry of Texas, Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, Senator Lindsay Graham, and a bunch of others are also burned to a crisp.  You might have Senator Marc Rubio as still viable, but I would bet he’s on the bubble, too. Senator Rand Paul just announced, but his race now seems way more quixotic with a Cruz ideology and money sucking up the space.  Governor Chris Christie was already late for the party, and now he’s a goner, whether he admits it or not.  Jeb Bush and his money juggernaut just realized they are in a fight to the death.  There are still a lot of candidates and Cruz is a wild and crazy guy, so some of those that can put together the cash will still be viable, but the dark horses just got pushed off the track.

On the Democratic side they just got the memo that there’s a new game in town, and they better double down if they want to be able to compete in the general election, because whoever emerges on the Republican side is going to have a pile of money and the will and ways to have raised it.   Eventually, the rest of us will get to vote, but once all the money is raised and spent, the only mystery will be if any of our votes and voices matter compared to the big buck boys and their millions calling the shots.