At last, April has arrived! While today may be filled with high-jinx and tom-foolery, three political news analysts aren’t fooling when they state that the scramble for 2012 starts today:
Money, momentum and the race for the 2012 Republican nomination
The race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination begins today.
Why? Because today marks the first day of the second fundraising quarter of the year. And anyone who is serious about running for president needs to prove between now and June 30 — the quarter’s end — that Republican donors are investing in them.
While money has mattered since political time immemoriam, it may matter more than usual in this GOP presidential fight for two reasons.
First, President Obama is setting himself up to be the greatest fundraising force in American politics. After collecting $750 million in the 2008 campaign, Obama re-election campaign manager Jim Messina has created a program for 400 majors donors to each collect $350,000 by the end of 2011.
The Fix is no math major, but that adds up to $140 million in 2011 alone (thanks, calculator!) if each of the donors can make their number. If 300 make the target — a more likely possibility — that’s still $105 million raised for the Obama re-election effort before a single vote has been cast on the Republican side.
While no Republican — not even former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney — will likely equal Obama in fundraising, any GOP candidate must prove an ability to collect some threshold amount of money over the next three months to prove that he (or she) would be financially viable against Obama next November.
The first indicator of momentum in any race, but especially a presidential contest, is money. Donors are, after all, investors and convincing them to buy in at the ground level is an early sign of momentum building. (Remember that Howard Dean’s out-of-nowhere candidacy first jumped onto the national radar screen when he raised $7.6 million in the second quarter of 2003.)
And, money follows money. Human nature tends to make us all want to be with the winner — cough, Yankee fans, cough — and the more a candidate raises early on, the more of a winner they look like.
Gov Romney is under no illusions about the progressive money machine he’s up against and the dollar amount it takes to survive a primary. He knows if his fix-it experience and get it done dauntlessness is going to rebuild America, he’s going to need a war chest full of money. From an earlier March fundraiser in NYC:
“I think Mitt is a very prudent businessman. He’s very data driven. He knows what he needs to do and he’s focusing on it with laser-like intensity,” said [former MA Governor] Weld. “He sounded not just like a presidential candidate. He sounded like a president.”
In an interview with The Daily Beast, Eisenberg said his goal is to be out fundraising as much as he can to raise as much money as possible for Romney, and although $50 million may be the goal now, the final number for the entire campaign is much higher.
“I do believe that by the time we’ve reached November 2012…both presidential candidates, Romney and Obama, will have raised and spent a billion dollars,” Eisenberg said.
The Fix also ranks 10 potential GOP presidential contenders most likely to win the nomination (I begin at number five):
5. Newt Gingrich: The former House speaker, who became the first major candidate to take a formal step towards running by entering the “testing the waters” phase last month, hasn’t had a great go of things thus far. Gingrich’s, ahem, evolving position on the conflict in Libya has made him the butt of jokes – both from late-night comedians and even his fellow Republicans at the Congressional Correspondents Dinner on Wednesday night. Observers see the former House speaker’s biggest potential liability – his mouth – starting to hurt him. And that’s not a good sign. (Previous ranking: 4)
4. Haley Barbour: Barbour has begun to build momentum for his now near-certain candidacy thanks to a series of major staff hires — both at the national level and in early states. If former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee decides to stay out of the race, Barbour will be the best on-the-stump candidate in the top tier. Add to that his fundraising ability — second only to Romney — and Barbour has the look of a contender. Of course, he has struggled mightily to deal with the issue of race in the campaign to date and will need to find a way (or ways) to address it effectively as things ramp up in the next few months. (Previous ranking: 6)
3. Mike Huckabee: The former Arkansas governor is incredibly well known and well regarded by Republican primary voters. He’s also the most naturally gifted candidate in this field and his charisma would shine through in 2012, as it did in 2008. The question for Huckabee is how badly he wants to run. While he occasionally gives a quote insisting he is still interested, the main thrust of his public remarks on the race seem to indicate he is less than keen about making a return run. Huckabee, due to his name identification nationally and residual strength in Iowa, can wait longer than most to make up his mind. But, his continued lack of any real organization-building will come back to bite him if he make the race. (Previous ranking: 5)
2. Tim Pawlenty: The former Minnesota governor made it (sort of) official earlier this month when he announced the formation of a presidential exploratory committee. Pawlenty has had a very solid 2011, touring early states and starting to put the staff pieces in place to run real campaigns in Iowa and New Hampshire. The biggest challenge for Pawlenty will be to raise the requisite money to keep up with the Romneys of the world; he announced a 16-person finance team last week, suggesting he is aware of the challenge before him. (Previous ranking: 2)
Look who is still holding his own…
1. Mitt Romney: There have been several recent reminders that Romney is still the frontrunner in this race, no matter how many Republicans attack his health-care bill. First there was a Pew poll showing that even among tea party supporters, the former Massachusetts governor comes out on top. A Washington Post/ABC News poll showed conservative voters like him too. And in the first quarter of the year, he raised $1.9 million through his federal and state political action committees, a reminder of his fundraising prowess. None of his problems have gone away, but Romney is stronger than his critics make him out to be. (Previous ranking: 1)
(my emphasis) For rankings on Mitch Daniels, Rick Santorum, Jon Huntsman, Sarah Palin, and Michele Bachmann read more here.
While Democrats keep a sharp eye on the forming GOP race, the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) has released an ad showing Obama’s pride in all he has accomplished (appropriate for April Fools’ Day!):
H/t Joe and Noelle
► Jayde Wyatt