It used to be, for almost any political campaign, you could take a gander at the funds raised and say ‘My money is on that candidate, the one with the money.’ Of course, the spending had to be responsible, but it was almost a sure bet.
Ted Cruz has dropped out of the Republican Presidential Race, giving Donald Trump the clear path to the nomination - Kasich dropped Wednesday. Unless the GOP decides to run a third party candidate under its banner, The Donald will be on the ballot this Fall.
His final opponent becomes more clear each day, and that would be Hillary Clinton. Bernie Sanders, like Cruz, has been entirely too unreliable and streaky down the stretch. Eventually, the Clinton coffers will capitalize and The Berne will be gone.
Clinton has raised $262.7 million so far - Bernie, $185.9 million. Being the grassroots guy that he is, Sanders’ money is accounted for through candidate fundraisers and less than 1% comes from PACS.
Clinton has taken $76 million from the PACs, with $186.7 million being raised by her campaign.
The two Democrats were first, and second, in fundraising respectively - with Ted Cruz coming in third. Cruz amassed $140.5 million during his campaign before ceding to Trump.
So far, this presidential election has not been that way. The total raised by Trump during this span? A cool $51.4 million - part of which came from his own personl funds - which is less than Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Ben Carson raised - individually - before they each dropped out of the race.
In fact Bush, who raised the most in the shortest time span - $162 million - dropped out first.
Part of Trump’s campaign rallying cry has been how little he’s spent, and how much of it has come from his personal coffers. Its a powerful message in a realm where presidential campaign spending exceeds $1 billion overall, and much of that money comes from special interest groups.
Now, some of this comes as no secret to those who have followed the political cycle since Obama passed the Affordable Care Act and his actions afterword. The masses have become angry with the political process in Washington. They are frustrated by inaction. At the same time, they elect candidates based on their willingness to contest the status quo.
An admirable goal, to be sure, but a slow process - as anything can be involving government. So, the solution many Americans have found is to back this candidate who wants to lead a literal charge on Washington - what Trump is selling is a new version of populism that appeals to a disillusioned electorate who feel their voice is not heard in D.C.
And a large amount people are buying it, buying an idea that needs little money to back it’s proliferation.
The Establishment fought back, in its own way, to no avail. Incumbents, especially those representing the GOP, said at first they would not back Trump, they would not provide him with the endorsement.
That didn’t stop him - in fact, it only proved his claim that those entrenched in Washington were scared of what he represented.
Then, his candidacy came under direct attack from fellow republicans, democrats, and any outside group that simply didn’t like him. The unlikely coalition, if it was indeed such a thing, spent $75 million on T.V. advertising - more than his total raised or spent on his own campaign - to sink him.
Now, in the home stretch, he has weathered some of the worst attacks as if they meant nothing to him, and he goes forward with almost no in-house competition.
So what can stop him?
One option would be to have the GOP spurn him and run a third party candidate, just to get some of the conservative vote that will refuse to stomach voting for an outsider - especially one with a mouth like Trump’s.
Most would believe that could spell doom for Trump, however Republicans would have to spend serious money on a no-namer just to get him in the race, a move that would simply stop the Donald and leave the road wide-open for Clinton to take the White House.
The window for that may be closed, as well, with Cruz staying in until almost the bitter end. It would have to be a convention play, and its hard to see someone who has 0 recognition take on a Clinton in the final stretch of the campaign.
No, if Republicans and Democrats alike want to stop the Donald, they’re going to have to go all-in on Hillary. In turn, Clinton has to focus on spending her dollars wisely at every turn. She has almost no appeal with the young voters, and many middle-aged voters remember plenty of her public gaffes, scandals, and the situation with her husband in the mid-90s and one Monica Lewinski.
Clinton has to re-brand as almost moderate if she’s going to win the general election. Why? She’s competing against the idea of Trump as the anti-establishment. Trump is riding a wave of resentment towards the way Washington works, represented by the amount of money he hasn’t raised, and nothing reeks more of Washington than the Clintons.
If Hillary continues to spend money to smear Trump, she will lose, because no one knows how to absorb an attack and fire right back with more effect. He’s already taken $75 million in attacks and not missed a beat.
Hillary has to focus her money on Trump’s political inexperience. We’ve seen what inexperience gets, thanks to Obama’s fast start and complete halt just two years in.
Will Hillary liken the two? Will she take that plunge? Time will tell, but if she doesn’t - this fight may be more than she bargained for.
Trump will need to up his game from ‘boasting’ to ‘how I’m going to’. That will be the only way he can try to fight a Clinton-lead charge on his experience, or lack thereof.
Needless to say, voters should be in for a unusual process this summer and fall, even if they do not like what comes out of the other end.
Voters are so fed up with Washington, that this year may set a precident for years to come - a populist ideal may carry more weight than gold.