With a wide-open field and some of the most likely contenders still weighing whether to run, Republican fundraisers appear to be holding off on investing in possible presidential candidates. According to a front-page story in Sunday’s New York Times, major bundlers (fundraisers who can put together large numbers of donors who will give the legal maximum of $2,500 to candidates allowed by campaign law) have adopted a wait and see attitude toward the 2012 GOP hopefuls.
The reasons for this are not exactly a secret. Some are waiting to see whether heavy hitters like Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels will decide to run. Others are simply unimpressed with the current crop of candidates. And then there is the competition for conservative dollars that is coming from groups like Karl Rove’s American Crossroads group whose aim is to advocate on issues rather than help specific candidates.
The result is that the gold rush of donations that might otherwise be heading to the campaigns has yet to begin. Investing early in a candidate, as opposed to hopping on the bandwagon once it becomes clear that victory is possible, is the best way to earn points with a future president. At this point in the election cycle 12 years ago, Republican donors were putting down payments on possible ambassadorial or other presidential appointments with the George W. Bush campaign. Four years ago, there was no certain front-runner but the leading candidates were still raking in more money to squander on the long run up to the first primaries and caucuses.
It is way too early to consider the current level of fundraising to be as significant as the Times seems to think it is. The GOP race has yet to define itself and once it does, you can bet that big money donors will be lining up to back the candidates. Once Daniels, Bachmann, Huckabee and Huntsman make their decisions, it’s likely that we’ll see the usual rush to get in on the ground floor of future presidential administrations.