Some of the credit, or blame, could go to loosened campaign finance rules: Of the 15 candidates spread across the two-part debate Wednesday on CNN, eight of them had raised at least $10 million among their campaigns and allied outside groups by the end of June. A ninth, businessman Donald Trump, vowed to spend hundreds of millions of dollars of his own money.
This year the newest generations of super PACs are raising record-breaking sums and evolving into de facto campaigns for some candidates, testing legal gray areas that are rarely enforced.
Wealthy backers helped Newt Gingrich, the former U.S. House speaker from Georgia, and Rick Santorum hang on into the spring of 2012 before losing the nomination, but the sums they provided look positively quaint now when compared with what the 2016 candidates raked in during their opening months.
The largest hammer of the bunch belongs to a PAC tied to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush that boasts about a dozen staffers based in Los Angeles and a jaw-dropping $100 million raised in its debut months. The PAC, Right to Rise, launched a $24 million television ad campaign Tuesday in the early-voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina touting Bush’s conservative record.
Surely, Jeb Bush isn’t coordinating with Right to Rise USA, the super PAC that has his back. That said, the former Florida governor may have just signaled how he intends to approach Donald Trump at Wednesday’s debate:
Despite the uplifting theme, note that the enthusiastic “!” has disappeared from “Jeb.”
The online RTR ad gives a chance to highlight this piece from Daniel Malloy, who -- this week only -- is your Insider in California:
LOS ANGELES — It could be a while before the Republican presidential field is small enough to fit on one debate stage.
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