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Cash isn’t king

24 February 2016 By Gina Chon

Donald Trump’s success so far in the race to be the Republican Party’s candidate for president comes with a large helping of irony. The billionaire real-estate mogul has spent less for each vote won than any of his party rivals. That is at least some comfort that financial largesse alone cannot win the White House.

A lot of the campaigns seem unaware of that. The GOP candidates already have double the financial backing their counterparts had in 2008, the last time a sitting president wasn’t running for election. Back then, they had by this stage raised $306 million between them, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. This year’s crop has taken in $270 million directly while their arms-length Super PACs, which weren’t legal eight years ago, have racked up nearly $350 million.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush has been the most spendthrift, burning some $120 million of the $150 million funneled into his campaign before his poor showing at the polls prompted him to quit last weekend. That works out to some $1,320 per vote.

Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas have pulled in more votes and are still in the race. But Rubio has shelled out $260 per vote and Cruz $233 – yet both still trailed Trump by double-digit percentage points in the past three ballots.

Trump puts them all to shame. His campaign has spent around $25 million so far – less than most rivals, including Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who doled out $32 million before bowing out last September. And The Donald has drawn more people to his cause, leaving his cost per vote at just $60.

That still leaves the United States a profligate spender on the political process by international standards. Britain’s political parties, for example, spent 37 million pounds ($55 million) between them on last year’s general election. And there’s still more than eight months of campaigning left stateside.

Trump’s money-saving weapons are a populist message, a brash style and an ability to whip up a media frenzy that he dominates. For whatever reason, that has resonated with voters far more than the traditional finger-pointing, stone-throwing stump speeches. It’s a lesson to future candidates that they need a mix of both cash and flash.


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