Ginger Gibson is a senior political writer at The International Business Times.
As Jeb Bush tries to amass a big enough fundraising haul to intimidate his GOP presidential competitors, his demands are rubbing some supporters the wrong way. Mid-level Republican donors are feeling priced out and ticked off, because Bush is asking for sizable sums without offering the expected courtesies in return. Several Republican insiders — none with ties to GOP 2016 hopefuls and some of whom have worked for the Bush family in previous campaigns — told International Business Times about incidents where once-reliable donors have begun to balk at requests from Bush’s team.
“Gov. Bush has not made a decision on if he will move forward with a potential campaign,” said Allie Brandenburger, spokesperson for Bush, when asked about donor unhappiness. “He is encouraged by the support he has received from a broad range of stakeholders across the country.”
Bush is still likely to announce impressive fundraising totals when his Right to Rise PAC reveals its first quarter fundraising totals — potentially hitting the target of raking in $100 million by March 31.
For Liz Mair, it took only a few months-old tweets to get her bounced from a presidential campaign. She insulted Iowa — the first-in-the-nation primary state that enjoys an outsized influence on politics — and that was enough to bring an end to her one-day term as an adviser to Gov. Scott Walker.
Mair is just one in a recent spate of campaign staffers, some of whom play no role in shaping the policy of the candidates who hire them, to find their social media activity at the center of a controversy, resulting in swift job loss.
In the “olden days,” the public would have likely never known (or cared) what some campaign staffer had to say about Iowa or abortion or gay rights. But with the rise of social media has come increased scrutiny of staffers, many whom have made their opinions known long before they ever started talking to the candidates who would ultimately hire them. A litmus test of sorts is now being applied to staff just the same as a candidate, and if they’re found out of step with their boss, critics and opponents are quick to point it out.
Prognosticators and political observers have long warned of the day when old Facebook and Twitter posts make it impossible to any suitable candidates for public office. But that fear has become a reality long before millennials have reached the age they’re eligible to run for office. And in a problem that transcends partisan lines, campaigns are now being forced to grapple with the public relations nightmare that ensues when a staffer becomes the center of attention for all the wrong reasons.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that while the Republicans have too many candidates for 2016, the Democrats have too few. If Hillary Clinton doesn’t run or her presidential campaign implodes, the thinking goes, her party has no bench, no backup, no Plan B.
The list of Democrats who have publicly suggested they might run is indeed skimpy. But it’s misleading to compare the depth of the two parties simply by counting the number of self-declared possible candidates. Every Republican who ever looked in the mirror and saw a president is hinting at a run, hoping to generate press, test the reaction and even begin to build momentum. For GOP-ers, there’s no downside to being talked about as a potential candidate. But not many A-list Democrats are mounting the same kind of PR campaign.
Several Democratic strategists, pollsters and party insiders interviewed for this article were eager to refute the idea that the party has no bench, and to suggest names of pols who could be viable 2016 candidates. But they didn’t want their own names attached to this article and refused to be quoted on the record. No one wants to be seen as encouraging someone to run against Clinton.
Just for the purposes of argument, here are some of the reasons Mitt Romney could succeed if he runs for president in 2016, as he is strongly hinting he will. He has name recognition. Having already been through a national campaign once — sorry, twice — he won’t be taken by surprise by the level of pressure and scrutiny. Even though he’ll be competing with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush for donors, with his Wall Street background, he can surely scare up a few deep-pocketed supporters. And he made so many gaffes in the last campaign, the public may now shrug off any stumbles about binders full of women or his friendship with NASCAR owners.
Romney certainly appears to think he can win this time. The former Massachusetts governor sees a political space for himself to the right of Jeb Bush (on immigration and Common Core) but to the left of the crowded conservative field. He’s been meeting with potential donors and returning to the speaking circuit. He’s banking on the idea that the nation’s voters have buyer’s remorse — that they believe, as he does, that the country would’ve been better off if he had won.
But there’s a reason Romney didn’t win: He’s a weak candidate. After all, he didn’t lose to the 2008 version of Barack Obama, a charismatic powerhouse who had electrified voters with the possibility of hope and change. Romney is the guy who lost to 2012 Obama, when the unemployment rate was hovering around 8 percent and the president had disappointed his supporters on the left and been pummeled by years of attacks from the right.