Money talks in the Democratic presidential contest

Andrew Malcolm writes for McClatchy about donors’ role in winnowing the Democratic presidential field.

Turns out, the scramble for political money has become far more decisive in the Democratic primary races than any of their policy papers or tedious TV debates.

And in that money contest, former Vice President Joe Biden has also become the former front-runner for 2020. He’s now lagging far behind the new frontrunners: Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and — wait for it — Pete Buttigieg, the fresh-faced Indiana mayor.

It’s still three months until the Iowa caucuses kick off Democrats’ crucial decision-making among actual voters. But fresh third-quarter campaign finance reports indicate donors are already picking winners in the still-crowded field. And they’re also picking losers, some of whom may not even make it to the first voting.

And then there’s the current White House occupant, President Donald Trump, whose campaign apparatus reported raising an additional $125 million in the third quarter of the year, historically the slowest fundraising time of year. Trump’s take is almost twice the combined quarterly sums of the top three Democrats.

Incumbent presidents usually outraise their competitors, especially when they’re basically unchallenged. But they don’t usually possess $158 million in cash on hand 54 weeks before the election.

In 2012, incumbent Barack Obama’s abundant cash trove enabled him to start massive ad spending in June to define his opponent, Mitt Romney, as an out-of-touch wealthy man. Without a matching campaign treasury, Romney was unable to compete in the advertising battle until September. By then, impressions were set.

Of course, money alone is no election guarantee. Hillary Clinton raised $1.4 billion in 2016. Trump collected $442 million less.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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