You wonder how long Rick Perry is going to hobble along before deciding to call it quits himself:
The chair of Rick Perry’s Iowa campaign, Sam Clovis, is calling it quits… The Perry campaign stopped paying staff earlier this month… The campaign’s money woes played a part in Clovis’ decision, he told the AP — though he said it was not the only reason for his departure.
Iowa is critical to Perry’s dwindling chances, and Clovis — a radio personality and failed 2014 Senate candidate — was considered central to his hopes there.
Clovis said he is in negotiations already to be hired by another campaign.
The Dropout Watch for the GOP primary race was activated nine days ago when it became public that Rick Perry’s campaign was broke and not paying any of their staff. This week, we can add another campaign to the list of those on life support: Chris Christie.
Rumors are swirling that Christie, facing horrendous numbers in Iowa (11th place @ 2%), New Hampshire (6th place @ 5%), and nationally (11th place @ 3%), is preparing one last push in in the Hawkeye and Granite states. If this round of campaigning and advertising fails to move the needle, Christie is considering dropping out at the end of August.
The necessary caveat: the rumors were picked up by the DC Whispers blog, a source of… questionable authority. And the Christie campaign is denying it (but what else are they supposed to say?). However, Bush/Cheney strategist Matthew Dowd has pegged Chris Christie as being the most likely to drop out as well, and the chatter among DC insiders is that both Perry and Christie’s campaigns are dead in the water.
Once the vultures start circling and the narratives are written, it’s virtually inevitable that candidates will end their bids (the only notable exception being John McCain in 2008). Once a cycle of these rumors begins, it affects fundraising, the ability to hire quality staff, and, when it enters the psyche of voters, creates a self-fulfilling prophecy in the polls. We may soon see the largest field in history contract by two.
1. Marco Rubio U.S. Senator from Florida
Sen. Rubio at number one? How? Trump is leading! Breitbart News says Trump is the frontrunner! Well, August horse race polls are not the best indicator of how the race shakes out, as President Giuliani should remind you. Favorability and overall acceptability combined with organization and fundraising are better indicators of long term success. With Bush and Walker stumbling, Marco Rubio stands to benefit the most. Rubio was considered by many to be the big winner in the first debate, and he is trending up across the early states, leading Bush in both Iowa and Nevada. With the other establishment candidates faltering, the likable and charismatic Rubio is gaining, with a surge in fundraising added to his leading campaign haul. Soon, the establishment will need to decide to double down on the increasingly unfavorable Jeb Bush or, as the Democrats did in 2008, move their support to the young rising star.
2. Jeb Bush former Governor of Florida
Gov. Bush slips from the top spot after a month of dreadful news for the dynastic presidential hopeful. Despite early leads in fundraising and organization, Bush’s numbers have continued to slide, partly due to the rise of Donald Trump, but also due to the lingering concern of a third Bush candidacy. The upward trends of Sen. Marco Rubio and Gov. John Kasich leave Bush with little room for error, as he trails Rubio in Iowa and is staring down a Kasich surge in the Bush firewall of New Hampshire. With his unfavorable numbers topping both Trump’s and Clinton’s, Bush’s argument of electability is now largely without merit. His Right to Rise super PAC is now hoping a massive media blitz will help stop the bleeding.
3. John Kasich Governor of Ohio
Kasich’s late start hasn’t stopped him from making big inroads in New Hampshire, a state his campaign has focused heavily on. Kasich added the support of Tom Rath, who joined former Sen. Sununu in backing the Ohio governor, in a direct blow to Jeb Bush’s New Hampshire effort. Rath and the Sununu family have long standing ties to the Bush family, and this could be an indicator of more defections to come. Kasich also received the endorsement of Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, a longtime Mike Huckabee supporter who has clearly sensed that the tanking former Arkansas governor is finished.
4. Donald Trump Chairman and President of The Trump Organization
Xenophobic billionaire and prominent Democratic donor Donald Trump continues to lead with a small plurality in the fractured GOP field. Despite any conservative credentials, gravitas, or substance, Trump has proven resilient due to his bombast and star power combined with a saturation of press coverage from Democratic allies in the media. Still, the Planned Parenthood supporter has awful favorable/unfavorable numbers and still lacks a professional campaign organization. Also, unlike other wealthy self-funded candidates like Perot, Forbes, or Bloomberg, Trump has not yet committed substantial money to his campaign.
5. Ted Cruz U.S. Senator from Texas
Cruz continues to be steady as he goes. With Trump filling the role of blowhard, Cruz seems almost substantive by comparison. He has stayed out of the fray, performed well in the first debate, and has watched as the numbers of his top social conservative opposition (Huckabee, Jindal, Perry, Walker) tank. As it stands, Cruz will benefit the most from the inevitable end of Trump and the fall of others such as Perry and Huckabee.
6. Scott Walker Governor of Wisconsin
Walker was damaged the most in the first debate, with his numbers in free fall ever since. It seems that the Pawlenty comparisons he tried to shake have proven resilient. To make matters worse, Walker has flip-flopped on a number of issues in a desperate bid to chase headlines with Donald Trump. His trends don’t look good.
7. Ben Carson former Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital
Dr. Carson benefitted the most from the first debate, seeing a surge into to second place in multiple polls behind only Donald Trump. The former surgeon also has very high favorable numbers across the party spectrum, and has raised enough money to be a credible candidate. However, his organization has thus far been underwhelming, and his grasp of foreign policy is still a glaring weakness going forward.
8. Carly Fiorina former CEO of Hewlett-Packard
The clear winner of the “kid’s table” debate, Fiorina has used her debating talents and media savvy to launch herself into the top ten and will likely make the main debate next month. Her consistent and substantive attacks on Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton have earned her a devoted fan following, but her lack of funding will keep her from the top tier.
9. Rand Paul U.S. Senator from Kentucky
Paul’s numbers have tanked in Iowa, New Hampshire, and nationally. He, along with Scott Walker, seem to have taken the most damage from the first debate. Things have gotten so bad that Rand has now trotted out Ron Paul on the trail in a desperate final bid for attention.
10. Chris Christie Governor of New Jersey
The New Jersey governor has slipped out of the top ten nationally and is in danger of missing the next debate. To add insult to injury, his friend John Kasich has stolen the role of “straight talking governor” in New Hampshire. Christie is going for one final media push, but rumors are swirling that his campaign could end soon.
Drop Out Watch: Rick Perry, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, Lindsey Graham, George Pataki, Rick Santorum, Jim Gilmore
As our own Matthew Newman reported earlier this morning, Rick Perry’s fundraising has dried up and he is no longer paying his campaign staff. There are a couple of angles I want to explore related to this story, because they can be quite instructive moving forward in this primary.
First, the steady drip of information coming out of Camp Perry is what may end up ultimately doing them in. Late yesterday afternoon, the story broke in the National Journal when it was revealed that Perry was no longer paying his South Carolina staff. Katon Dawson, Perry’s South Carolina director, tried to put a positive spin on the story, saying how the staff were happy to work on a volunteer basis “for a while”. One state, temporary issue.
Then a little later, reporters began asking Camp Perry about his staff in other early states. They began tweeting that Perry’s campaign was not responding to questions about whether or not Iowa and New Hampshire staff were getting paid. Eventually, the news broke: none of the staff in any of the early states were being paid anymore. The one state problem had grown to three states now.
Then it came out that Perry’s campaign manager Jeff Miller had told all the staff, with Perry’s blessing, that they were free to look for other jobs with other campaigns. Suddenly the temporary situation didn’t seem so temporary.
Then, the latest in a series of death by a thousand cuts: not only were the staff in early states going without a paycheck, everybody working at the Perry campaign, including at the headquarters in Austin, were not getting paid.
With each new update to the original story it kept getting worse and worse for the Perry campaign, until folks began writing his political obituary. But wait! Some pointed out that Perry’s Super PAC could ride in and save the day; after all, they were sitting on $17 million at the end of June. But there is a twist to how this brave new political world of Super PACs works, and it’s one that many have overlooked up to this point: Super PACs cannot coordinate with campaigns.
When the fundraising numbers for Q2 were being reported last month, we were very careful here at Race to separate the Super PAC numbers from the campaign fundraising numbers. For instance, Jeb’s campaign did not raise $130 million, it raised $11 million. Huckabee’s campaign did not raise $8 million, it raised $2 million. And Rick Perry, who was widely reported as having raised $18 million actually only raised $1 million. Their Super PACs raised the remainder of those totals, and the difference, as we are learning with the Perry campaign now, is much more than semantics.
Rick Perry’s Super PAC has $17 million, but they cannot use that money to pay the campaign staff who aren’t getting paid now. They cannot use that money to pay for travel expenses Perry racks up. They cannot use that money to pay the rent for their office space, or buy office supplies, or pay catering bills or phone bills or electricity bills or any other bills the Perry campaign accrues. Any of that would break the coordination law, and so they are left sitting on a giant pile of money watching their candidate sink like a rock. About all they can do at this point is run a bunch of national ads and hope it’s enough to get Perry into the grown-up debate on CNN next month — if Perry can even survive another month.
Oftentimes, it is only the financial reality of having to pay all those bills that forces candidates out of presidential races. This is the first campaign cycle where Super PACs were front and center, and everyone went crazy covering how this would change the face of politics — but this analyst wonders (and has wondered for quite some time now) if their importance is over-exaggerated. After all, what’s the point of having a $17 million Super PAC when they can’t do anything to save your floundering campaign? One wonders if some of these candidates (Perry, Huckabee, Jindal, et al) didn’t buy into the untested glamour of these Super PACs, leading them to not focus enough on traditional fundraising.
The most important number in our Fundraising Leaderboard has always been, and continues to be (even in the Super PAC age), Cash on Hand. That’s the pot of money candidates have remaining from which to pay their staff and all the other bills like the ones mentioned above. Six of our candidates entered Q3 with less than a million dollars on hand, which simply does not bode well for their chances:
Out of that list, Fiorina is clearly in the best shape because of her debate performance and free publicity last week. That should lead to a fundraising boom for her. But looking down the list at the other candidates, it’s difficult to see how they run a national campaign with such little money. We’ve already seen how quickly Perry burned through $880,000. The other candidates can’t be far behind. The irony is Huckabee has a Super PAC with $6 million and Jindal has one with $9 million — but if those campaigns hit financial difficulty on the road ahead, we’re seeing now with Rick Perry just how powerless those Super PACs with large sums of money will be to actually help.
In what may be the beginning of the end of the Perry campaign, it’s being reported that Perry’s campaign staff has been shifted to volunteer status. All of them. Here’s more from the Washington Post:
Former Texas governor Rick Perry’s presidential campaign is no longer paying its staff because fundraising has dried up, while his cash-flush allied super PAC is preparing to expand its political operation to compensate for the campaign’s shortcomings, campaign and super PAC officials and other Republicans familiar with the operation said late Monday.
Perry, who has struggled to gain traction in his second presidential run, has stopped paying his staff at the national headquarters in Austin as well as in the early caucus and primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, according to a Republican familiar with the Perry campaign who demanded anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.
Perry campaign manager Jeff Miller told staff last Friday, the day after the first Republican presidential debate, that they would no longer be paid and are free to look for other jobs — and, so far at least, most aides have stuck with Perry — according to this Republican.
“As the campaign moves along, tough decisions have to be made in respect to both monetary and time related resources,” Miller said in a statement. “Governor Perry remains committed to competing in the early states and will continue to have a strong presence in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.”
As noted in the article, there is quite a bit of pro-Perry Super PAC money floating around, which may keep him afloat a bit longer. But, unless his campaign suddenly gets flush with cash, this may be the beginning of the end of Perry 2016. I really hope he doesn’t fully fade away as I enjoy having him as part of the national discussion.
Now that the first debate is in the books and we are hitting the tail portion of the summer, the Race 4 2016 is beginning to really take some shape. I decided to put my analyst hat on for a bit here and try to game out the race the rest of the way. This is probably an exercise in futility and things could look very different six weeks from now, let alone six months. However, I think this will be a fun exercise.
First, here are some quick and, best as I can, impartial thoughts on the candidates, their performance thus far and their viability.
Governor Jeb Bush – Make no mistake, Jeb Bush remains the front runner. Still. Barely. His grasp on that position is tenuous, at best. All the money in the world will not be able to overcome what appear to be very real deficiencies in Bush as a candidate, especially against a field this strong. What was obvious last night was that even Bush’s best niche as a candidate – the serious, focused, “adult in the room” – was usurped by more talented candidates.
Dr. Ben Carson – Dr. Carson’s appeal, which I never really understood, was on display last night, at least at times. He is likable, genuine and he fills a nice niche as an outsider which will appeal to a segment of the party. Yet, as things begin to get closer to voting I see Carson’s support, and money, drying up.
Governor Chris Christie – Governor Christie was one of the stronger candidates on stage in last night’s debate and showed at least some of why he was once thought of as a front-runner. He is beginning to carve out a place as the tough guy in the race and his exchange with Rand Paul will at least win him a second look from mainstream conservatives, but he will remain strongly disliked by the far-right. He has work to do, a lot of it in fact, but it appears he will have some staying power.
Senator Ted Cruz – Senator Cruz is who we thought he was – the hardcore, far-right conservative. And that is a formidable position to hold in a GOP primary. Cruz’s appeal is largely with middle-aged, working-class white men in the rural and exurban South and Heartland who listen to talk radio, drink Bud Light and drive pickup trucks. His goal as the race moves into its next phase will be to consolidate his support among that group and, as I will explain in my next column, he is probably the candidate best positioned to do that.
Mrs. Carly Fiorina – Mrs. Fiorina demonstrated, forcefully, why she belongs on the main stage with the serious candidates. The former Hewlett-Packard CEO was sharp, articulate, quick on her feet and extraordinarily presidential. More importantly, as a woman, it is going to be hard for other candidates to attack her. That, coupled with her very obvious and real talents as a candidate, she appears poised to be in the race for the long haul if she can raise the necessary money.
Governor Jim Gilmore – A lot folks were not aware that Governor Gilmore was even in the race. After a largely forgettable performance in the afternoon debate yesterday, I am not sure many more know he is in the race now and I doubt he will be in the race much longer.
Senator Lindsey Graham – Senator Graham was largely disappointing in the afternoon debate yesterday. I found that somewhat surprising as Graham is a good communicator and his folksy demeanor plays well. Yet, as someone who was largely an afterthought going into yesterday he had to do more. He will not last much longer.
Governor Mike Huckabee – The former Arkansas Governor did well, as expected, yesterday. An excellent communicator with a loyal following, Huckabee has staying power in the race. His problem, however, is two-fold; one he not that strong of a conservative on issues beyond the social and he never has been much of a fundraiser. He needs to do a lot of work on both those areas if he is going to make it to the final round.
Governor Bobby Jindal – Governor Jindal performed strongly in yesterday’s debate, demonstrating a strong grasp on policy and a top-tier intellect. Problem is, in a field this large it is going to hard for a candidate like Jindal, with little name recognition and even less money, to stand out. Sans finding some kind of silver bullet, and firing it soon, Jindal will be an early exit. He will, however, make an excellent cabinet secretary in a Republican administration.
Governor John Kasich – Governor Kasich was very strong yesterday. As a late entrant into the race there were concerns Kasich had waited too long, that does not appear to be the case. His very strong debate performance figures to bring a major boost both his name recognition and fund-raising ability. Being from Ohio and having a long resume of successful governmental experience will help too. Barring a major gaffe, which is a possibility given his penchant for speaking off the cuff, Kasich is a good bet to remain in this race for the long haul.
Governor George Pataki – The former Governor of the Empire State, who performed well in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and can boast being a three-term governor of a dark, dark blue state, did not perform badly in the afternoon debate. He was not great, either. And for a candidate that is near the very bottom of the barrel, that will prove highly problematic and Pataki will likely be forced to exit the race sooner rather than later.
Senator Rand Paul – Perhaps no candidate’s performance both in yesterday’s debate and the race at large has been more polarizing than Paul’s. He has a sizable and vocal base of support from libertarians and libertarian-leaning conservatives but his challenge has always been if he can expand upon that. Truth be told, I do not think we have a definitive answer on that yet. Even if the answer turns out to be no, and it the estimation of yours truly it is trending that way, Paul will have staying power, because of his base, as his father demonstrated. With his re-election to the Senate a virtual guarantee, Paul will likely remain in the race long-term to highlight the issues about which he and his base are passionate, even when it becomes clear he has no chance in hell to win the nomination.
Governor Rick Perry – On paper, Governor Perry looks like a very formidable candidate. He is a multi-term, widely successful governor of the nation’s second-largest state, a “checks all the boxes” conservative with charisma, a southern base of support and is one of only two veterans in the Republican race. Yet none of that has translated into support. It’s puzzling. And Perry and his team will have to solve that puzzle soon if he is to remain in the race much longer.
Senator Marco Rubio – Those of us who follow politics closely are all keenly aware of the very formidable strengths Senator Rubio brings to the table. Last night, the rest of the country got to see it as well. Rubio was good. Very good. He can sell conservatism in a way that appeals to such a broad segment of the electorate. Recent talk about the “Rubio summer slide” should be silenced after last night’s performance. As his supporters (which, full disclosure, yours truly is one) have been saying his slow-and-steady wins the race approach looks like a good grand strategy. He is going to be able to raise plenty of money, he is excellent on the stump, in interviews and, as we saw yesterday, in debates as well. Rubio will be in the race for the very long haul.
Senator Rick Santorum – Senator Santorum’s second run at the presidency looks like it will end a lot sooner than his first. It is hard to find a niche to which he appeals; others are better-equipped to go after blue-collar voters and hardcore social conservatives. However, he is a tenacious politician and he will not give up easily, quickly or without a fight. It is plainly obvious to everyone now that he is not going to win, or even get close, to the nomination, but it will take Santorum a lot longer to get out of the race than another candidate who found themselves in a similar position.
Mr. Donald Trump – Trump was nothing short of awful yesterday; he was the very definition of un-presidential. Many political observers, most especially yours truly, have struggled mightily to understand his appeal. So it is possible that Trump’s supporters – the ones who voted him the debate’s runaway winner in yesterday’s Drudge poll – liked what they saw last night and will continue to support him. However, it is hard to imagine that yesterday’s embarrassing performance did not hurt him at least somewhat. Trump’s death as a candidate will likely, unfortunately, be a long and slow one. There is a segment of voters who do genuinely like him, passionately, and the media cannot get enough Trump talk. To make a sports analogy, Trump is the Tim Tebow of the 2016 race.
Governor Scott Walker – Governor Walker had a steady performance last night. He really did not do anything to distinguish himself but he certainly did not make any gaffes or do anything damaging. He has been doing the ground work in Iowa where his natural appeal makes him an ideal fit for first in the nation caucus state. Yet, Walker is going to need to start doing more lest his charisma gap – which is very real – does not lead voters to at least start looking at other candidates.
Part Two of this piece, which is coming very soon, will make an attempt to game out the next eight months of the race. Stay tuned!
1. Jeb Bush former Governor of Florida
Gov. Bush returns as the default frontrunner, in part due to his historic fundraising strength, but more so due to the effects of the “Summer of Trump”. With the left-wing billionaire dominating media coverage of the race, lesser known candidates have been deprived of much needed air time. Bush, with his dynastic name, is somewhat immune to this effect, leaving him relatively unscathed in national polls. However, Trump does pose a bigger threat to Bush than other candidates running, mostly due to the unpredictable, anti-establishment history of the New Hampshire electorate. Unlike Scott Walker, Bush has been unable to maintain his early state lead, falling far behind Trump in the first primary state. The longer Bush stays behind a buffoon like Trump, the weaker he looks and the less likely a third Bush presidency becomes.
2. Scott Walker Governor of Wisconsin
Walker has finally entered the race and immediately added to his commanding lead in Iowa. Walker’s early state strength is more impressive when you consider other candidates have seen their numbers crumble in the wake of the Trump media frenzy. Walker’s aligned super PACs have over $20 million in the bank, more than enough to build on and sustain his Iowa lead. However, Walker has become the new favorite target of the left-wing billionaire, and he must be careful how far into the weeds he wants to go in responding to the erratic and unelectable Clinton donor.
3. Marco Rubio U.S. Senator from Florida
Sen. Rubio has seen some of his poll numbers fall as the Florida republican has receded from media attention, focusing more on fundraising and organization during the summer. His efforts have paid some off some, as his campaign raised the most money of any candidate, and his super PACs brought in the third most. Rubio has also avoided some of the more embarrassing elements of this summer’s campaign, namely getting dragged too deep in the muck by realty TV show character Donald Trump. Rubio has managed to retain his stunningly high favorability ratings, making him the most liked candidate in the field, something that bolsters his electability argument against the more unfavorable Jeb Bush and the rapidly declining Hillary Clinton.
4. John Kasich Governor of Ohio
Kasich’s late start hasn’t stopped him from making big inroads in New Hampshire, a state his campaign has focused heavily on. With a team that knows New Hampshire well, a local boost from the Sununu family, and solid PAC fundraising, Kasich may still become a top challenger to Bush on the establishment side. Now that it looks like he’ll make the debates, his momentum may continue to build. With the bursting of the Trump bubble looming, attention will turn to candidates who are not insane or a blight on party, and Kasich will be a top choice when that occurs.
5. Ted Cruz U.S. Senator from Texas
With the “bomb-throwing loudmouth” slot being filled by Trump, Cruz finds himself largely without his natural niche. He lame attacks on Sen. Mitch McConnell won’t win him back his status as Cruz is the only candidate in the field who hasn’t stood up to Trump’s more outlandish statements, leaving the Texas senator open to criticism for weakness and gutlessness. However, Cruz’s fundraising has put him in a position to capitalize on the collapse of other candidates in the far-right bracket of the primary process, making him the most likely of the fringe candidates to survive a longer campaign.
6. Chris Christie Governor of New Jersey
Christie’s comeback has been very slow, but a few polls released since his announcement have him doing slightly better than expected. His unfavorables still need major work, and his New Hampshire-or-bust campaign needs strengthening, but he’s done enough to make the debates, where his talents can be most effective.
7. Rand Paul U.S. Senator from Kentucky
Paul’s numbers continue to slide, a fact that was made more alarming but his horrible fundraising quarter, both by his campaign and aligned PACs. Paul’s “libertarian moment” seems to have passed him by. With so many candidates soaking up the media spotlight, Paul was supposed to have the money and an organization to give him an edge in the early states. It just hasn’t materialized.
8. Rick Perry former Governor of Texas
Gov. Perry has been the strongest voice for conservatism in the face of the media-created Trump bubble, taking the liberal billionaire to task for a number of his leftist positions and idiotic statements. Perry, one of only two veterans running for the nomination, has earned a true second look for his courage in the face of media hysteria.
9. Donald Trump Chairman and President of The Trump Organization
It is with great embarrassment and tremendous shame in my party that I have to include this buffoon in these rankings. Unfortunately, Trump’s numbers cannot be ignored. However, polls alone are not the decisive factor in primary elections, with money and organization at this early stage carrying greater weight. Trump has yet to put serious money into his campaign the way Ross Perot did, and his lack of a real ground game will show over time. The fact that the Koch brothers have cut him off to their database and research puts him in greater need of his own “yuuuge” financial resources.
10. Mike Huckabee former Governor of Arkansas
Gov. Huckabee followed his disturbing defense of Josh Duggar last month with an outlandish attack on the President this month, comparing him to the SS officers who committed mass genocide against the Jews during World War II. This pattern of nonsensical rhetoric was coupled with a disastrous fundraising quarter for the TV host-turned-also ran. On top of it all, Huckabee’s numbers in Iowa are tanking, leaving his chances of being the nominee on life support.
Honorable Mention: Carly Fiorina, Bobby Jindal, Ben Carson
No Chance: Lindsey Graham, George Pataki, Rick Santorum, Jim Gilmore
Sanrio, the company behind Hello Kitty, has an avatar maker called Chanrio. Of course, someone (me) took the liberty of making some of the leading 2016 GOP candidates as “Chanrio” Sanrio styled characters.
You’re welcome. I’m sure Bob will make a more serious open thread, but you can treat this as a second one. Pics below the fold.