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The Permanent Campaign: Can Donors Cull the 2016 GOP Field?

By / 12.10.2014

Anyone looking towards the starting line for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination campaign has got to wonder how and when this gigantic field gets “culled.”  Sure, it will eventually happen once voters start voting, but how about in the Invisible Primary where party elites get to put their thumbs on the scales?  It’s a particularly big issue to the Republican Establishment types who are used to backing a front-runner, but are now looking at the possibility of overlapping and redundant “mainstream” campaigns from Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, and perhaps Mitt Romney–none of them other than Romney looking all that strong in the early polls.

The New York Times‘ Nick Confessore is reporting that big Establishment donors are talking about cutting to the chase by agreeing to unite behind one candidate, presumably trashing their other favorites as non-viable.

The conversations, described in interviews with a variety of the Republican Party’s most sought-after donors, are centered on the three potential candidates who have the largest existing base of major contributors and overlapping ties to the top tier of those who are uncommitted: Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida and Mitt Romney.

All three are believed to be capable of raising the roughly $80 million in candidate and “super PAC” money that many Republican strategists and donors now believe will be required to win their party’s nomination.

If true, this is really bad news for Rubio, who’s not even in this conversation.  But it also creates the risk of major blowback from conservative activists who are struggling with their own “culling” process, and might well react angrily to efforts to place someone in the position Romney was in at this point four years ago–especially if it’s Romney himself.