By Bekah Paxton, Staff Writer
Money is a form of political speech. In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld this statement in the ruling of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, positing that the federal government cannot restrict nonprofit and for-profit organizations from donating money to election campaigns.
Especially recently in the Republican Party, it has become evident that these donors can become a highly influential force behind the actions of the party during election season. The New York Times reported on Monday that many major donors for Republican candidates have expressed a desire for a narrowed-down, formulated selection of candidates to support going into primary season. This may be the beginning of a new era of GOP strategy.
In the recent past, the months leading up to Republican primary elections on the federal level have been spent within the party squabbling over the relatively large number of candidates up for consideration. In the Democratic Party, generally a strong candidate emerges going toward the primaries, maybe with one or two other less-supported alternatives due to caucuses and town-meeting-type gatherings. This season, Hillary Clinton has emerged as a likely candidate and will most likely be a nominee going forward to the general election.
For the Republican Party, this is a poor election strategy. According to NYT reporter Nicholas Confessore, there are approximately 12 potential Republican candidates looking toward the election in 2016. They represent the many branches and platforms encompassed within the GOP, and therefore represent many different political views. Since only one out of twelve will pass through the primaries, those constituents who supported the other eleven will not feel represented and are less likely to be interested or participate in the general election.
Voter turnout is a major necessity for the Republican Party if they want to oust the Democrats from the White House. Presenting a poorly supported, “cover-all” candidate against a strong single Democrat will only hurt their chances of attaining the presidency.
Thus, donors for various GOP candidates are pushing the Republican Party to put forth a couple options well before the start of primary season. Why? Donors are like investors. They put money into a candidate whom they support but also feel has a chance of winning the election in hopes that their interests will be protected in the resulting presidential administration. These corporations and wealthy individuals don’t want to put money on a losing prospect for a primary, and if possible, they want a winning prospect in the ultimate general election.
Confessore writes of these major donors, such as Woody Johnson, owner of the New York Jets, Foster Friess, a successful investment manager, and Sheldon Adelson, casino mogul. “They fear being split into competing camps and raising hundreds of millions of dollars for a bloody primary that would injure the party’s eventual nominee — or pave the way for a second-tier candidate without enough mainstream appeal to win the general election.”
Although the influence of large donors of individual candidates can be dangerous, it seems that the push for a new strategy going into the primary elections is just what the Republican Party needs if it hopes to win the presidency in 2016. After sweeping success in the midterm elections, the inertia is stronger than ever to put a Republican in the Oval Office. Democratic candidates are usually determined quite early on, and in order to successfully oppose the strong campaigns they are able to build, Republicans also need to sort out their ideologies and candidates going into primary season.