Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Politics, Money, and Super Pacs — the Road to South Carolina

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New Hampshire’s primary election results both confused and baffled me.  How could the Republican Party electorate be so fragmented that not one, not two, but five Presidential candidates drew 10% or more of the vote?

And the putative winner, Willard “Mitt” Romney, didn’t exactly impress anyone even though he took 39% of the vote due to how close, geographically, New Hampshire is to Romney’s home state of Massachusetts.  While he gained seven delegates, Ron Paul did quite well in gaining 23% of the vote and garnering three delegates, while Jon Huntsman came in a strong third with 17% of the vote and gained two delegates.

But I’d rather talk about something else aside from the bare results today; to wit, it’s time to talk money.  Namely, Super PAC money.

Where is all this money coming from?  Most of it is coming from a handful of individuals, supremely wealthy sorts who can spend millions like it’s going out of style, which allows the various candidate-affiliated Super PACs to run all sorts of negative ads.  Some of which actually have some resemblance to the truth.

Now, are the candidates supposed to be affiliated with the Super PACs that are helping them?  Of course not.  But it’s hard to believe that Jon Huntsman’s father, Jon Huntsman, Sr., isn’t talking to his son about the ads he’s running on his son’s behalf; it’s really difficult to believe that the folks backing Romney haven’t talked with him about the ads they’ve aired on his behalf, either.

As most long-time political watchers are aware, the best-funded candidate often wins rather than the best-qualified candidate, mostly because he or she can take command of the narrative in a way that it can become tough to rebut if there’s enough money to throw at an election.

But if you read that as, “if there’s enough money to throw an election,” you might not be too far wrong, either.

So here’s the deal, folks; we have way, way too much money in politics, something MSNBC host Dylan Ratigan often discusses during his afternoon show.  We have Super PACs who can raise unlimited amounts of money and who don’t, necessarily, have to disclose who’s funding what with whose money due to the controversial Supreme Court of the United States’ “Citizens United” decision.  And we have a completely broken, fraudulent system that’s become more like an oligarchy than the putative democracy most of us grew up to know, study and love.

So the road to South Carolina is littered with all of that, which is why this is such a mess.

What I see is this: we have Romney, who a whole lot of Republicans and right-leaning Independents don’t like.  We have Rick Santorum, who is a Christian conservative — he’s a kind-hearted and well-meaning man by all accounts, but some of his public statements (especially regarding GLBT Americans) are, to be charitable, questionable at best.  There’s Newt Gingrich, who is a smart, wily politician — I don’t agree with many of his stances, but I’ll never deny that he has skills and smarts — but who has a great deal of ground to make up if he intends to win the Republican nomination for President.  There’s Rick Perry, who can’t seem to get over his disastrous debate performances to gain any traction.  There’s Ron Paul, who has become attractive to many people, mostly because he speaks his mind and isn’t anywhere near as “packaged” as the rest of the folks running for President.  And there’s Jon Huntsman, who really looks like he’d be a great President down the road — but not this year, methinks.

All of these candidates, were there some semblance of a level financial playing field, would be far better served than they are right now.  Gingrich has said so, and so has Perry to a degree; I applaud them both for their stances, even though what they’d do to fix this mess as conservative Republicans is to make every candidate have to fully and freely declare who’s funding whom and why.  (To my mind, that’s a good start.  But it’s only a start.)

As I see it, the road to South Carolina is filled with all sorts of potholes, unintended sinkholes, and way too much money to be borne.  So the media will clean up, the populace of South Carolina will largely tune out, and it’ll be much harder for any candidate to gain any sort of legitimate traction than it would’ve been with a more level playing field.

Because of that, my best guess is that if there is an upset here, it’s going to come from Newt Gingrich.  I think Paul will once again be a factor and gain delegates.  I think Romney will draw at least 25%, and I think if Huntsman continues to represent himself well, he’ll get at least 9% or 10%, a respectable showing.  But it’s also possible that Rick Santorum will do well in South Carolina; because Santorum and Gingrich both are trying to take Romney down, that might split the “anti-Romney” vote between them which allows Romney to eke out another narrow win.

And I do think, for whatever it’s worth, that South Carolina is Rick Perry’s final stop on the 2012 Presidential merry-go-round.

One final thought: I’d really love to find out how much money Romney’s five sons are earning as “campaign aides.”  I believe the only person, by law, a Presidential candidate can “shield,” financially, is his spouse — that’s because a married couple is counted as one, legally.  And I’m fine with that; I don’t really need to know how much money Ann Romney needs at this point, nor Callista Gingrich, nor any of the other candidates’ wives, either.

But Romney’s five strapping adult sons are another matter.  They are all listed as “campaign aides,” which means they’re drawing a salary.  I think it’s time we know how much Romney’s paying his five sons to do a bunch of make-work on the campaign trail, don’t you?

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