Roosevelt Institute | Cornell University

Does Money Still Matter?

By Kyle OefeleinPublished April 15, 2016

Many of the top donors in the GOP have united in order to keep Mr. Trump from winning the nomination outright. However, is this an occasion in U.S. politics where money really won't make a difference?

    It's no secret the Republican Party is extremely divided over Donald Trump. With the recent failure of Mr. Trump to reject an endorsement by a former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard, even more Republicans have begun to see the candidate as a test of character rather than a political choice.   Many important names in the GOP have disavowed Trump. Important party members have vowed to write-in a candidate rather than vote for him. Influential establishment Republicans Romney and Rubio also stand firmly against the candidate, leading us to believe the party will have trouble uniting in July at the Convention. This disunity is a trend likely to continue throughout the main presidential election.  

    Trump's candidacy was at first considered somewhat as a joke, yet it has clearly evolved into a very serious run for office. Big names in Republican donor circles have started to  take notice.  Before, many big donors were holding back in order to see who emerged from the pack.  As Trump's clear lead remains unchanged, many are realizing the only time to intervene is now.

    Many top Republican donors have united over the quest to keep Trump from gaining enough delegates to win the convention outright. Many of these donors have already put hundreds of millions of dollars behind establishment candidates, only to see them subsequently fall to Trump. However, the outpouring of money confirms that the financial elite of the Republican Party still believe that a well-financed attack campaign could feasibly stop Mr. Trump from successfully winning the party's nomination.
    While this last ditch effort is undoubtedly well planned and has widespread support among major Republican donors, how likely is it to stop what has seemed to become a nearly unstoppable force?

    As we have seen, money clearly isn't everything.  As we saw with Jeb Bush's campaign, even an unrivaled warchest seems unable to topple the support behind Trump. When Jeb Bush announced he was running in June, he already had more money than every other Republican candidate combined. Bush spent almost all of this money without claiming a single state. The deep pocket donors who backed Bush included many of the same people currently campaigning aggressively to unite Republican money against Trump.

    While these efforts seem to be founded by well-intentioned and driven players in the GOP, it seems unlikely that their efforts will have much effect on what seems to be a nearly unstoppable support of Trump.  Ted Cruz seems to be the only remaining Republican candidate with the financial backing to possibly take down Trump, yet this has hardly translated into many victories in the primaries. Cruz still trails Mr. Trump's 739 delegates significantly, with only 465.  While it is still possible, it will clearly be an uphill battle to keep Trump from winning the Republican nomination outright.  After many furious debates over the role of campaign finances and the role of money in deciding elections, it finally seems like big donors are unable to make much of an impact in the campaign.