Who Will Be The 2012 Republican Nominee? Follow The Money

The 2012 GOP nominee will have to raise $300 million and assemble a top-notch staff.

Charlie Cook says that, rather than looking at the results of the silly CPAC straw poll, we should instead be thinking about who can raise the $300 million or so that it’ll take to win the Republican primaries.

Thinking about these sobering fundraising demands tends to quiet talk about long-shot, late-entry, and outsider candidacies. The fundraising demands mean that a successful candidate would either need to enter the race with nationwide name recognition, at least in their party’s donor and activist community, or get a very early start with a team of people who already possess the contacts within that donor and activist community.

These financial demands mean that more attention should be placed on the donor community and what kind of candidates they are looking for. In 2008, Huckabee was a great example of a candidate who unexpectedly won the Iowa Caucus but had virtually no appeal beyond the ranks of social, cultural, and religious conservatives, and the home-schooling community.

As a result, he never was able to diversify his appeal or monetize his Iowa Caucus victory and become a strong force in the nomination fight. Money can’t buy you a nomination, but it can certainly deprive you of one.

It also means that there will be a premium on the candidates who can find world-class talent to tap that money—yet another reason why former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is highly unlikely to win the GOP nomination.

You have to be able to attract top-drawer people, delegate responsibility to them, and let them do their jobs—attributes not commonly associated with Palin.

Those factors, along with her extraordinary negatives among independents (read: swing voters necessary to win a general election), make her a faux front-runner in this race. Similar challenges with independent voters and the electability question will likely plague former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., while the financial requirements will be the biggest challenge to Huckabee if he runs.

This means that the fight for the Republican nomination is more wide open than commonly thought, but with the caveat that it will take an enormous amount of money to get through the door.

This is the chief reason why I think Mitt Romney, who’s by no means my personal favorite, is the odds-on favorite to win the nomination. He’s wealthy, polished, has tremendous name recognition, and has access to top-drawer advisors (including, I remind you, the polling and strategy firm that employs my wife). If it’s not Romney, I suspect it’ll be some governor who’s not yet well known rather than Palin, Gingrich, Huckabee, Donald Trump, Ron Paul, or other famous but extremely controversial people whose names are being bandied about.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Tyler Healey says:

    Romney’s religion precludes him from winning the nomination.

  2. Franklin says:

    Mitt Romney, who’s by no means my personal favorite

    Who’s your personal favorite?

  3. James Joyner says:

    Who’s your personal favorite?

    Not sure. I’d probably support Jeb Bush if he were running. Mitch Daniels, Gary Johnson, and some other relative unknowns are appealing but I don’t know them that well. (Tim Pawlenty, for example, becomes less appealing the more I learn.)

  4. Tyler Healey says:

    Jeb Bush is too closely associated with Florida in 2000 to win the general election, but not the nomination. Mitch Daniels is too closely associated with W. Bush’s budget-busting fiscal policy. Gary Johnson smokes too much weed to win the nomination. Tim Pawlenty is too socially conservative to win the general election, but not the nomination.

  5. Tyler Healey says:

    The only guy who has no serious impediment to election is Governor Bob McDonnell. He’d make a mistake by waiting until 2016.

  6. wr says:

    Jeb Bush. Why not just go ahead and call for monarchy, now that you’ve apparently decided that a nation of three hundred million people can only be led by members of one family?

  7. James Joyner says:

    I’m not sure that Jeb Bush is the best man for the job; he’s almost certainly not given the odds. But you have to pick from candidates who are available and plausible. I don’t think Bush will run, am not excited about any of the frontrunners, and don’t know enough about the dark horses yet.

  8. Tyler Healey says:

    Bob McDonnell’s only blemish is reinstating Confederate History Month in Virginia. Then, to make matters worse, he did not even mention slavery in his statement on the subject.

    You know what; that actually destroys his chances at election as well.