As a political science major and general politics enthusiast, I’m more than thrilled to have the privilege to spend my summer interning in Sacramento, California, at a public affairs firm that focuses on strategic political communications for large corporations. My experience working in and around the capital as a frequent attendee of various hearings has inspired me to start this column, “Capitol Talk.”
In the midst of the forthcoming presidential elections, politicians and constituents have felt the burgeoning pressure to endorse, select and predict the best candidates. Though the presidential campaign has historically followed the same pattern, this election cycle might present a different lesson to Americans in the art of political campaigning and strategy.
Structurally, political campaigns follow a similar pattern. Once candidates from all parties are selected to move forward in the general election, money from political action committees and super PACs are distributed at full speed and advertisements begin. In terms of focusing on the two major political parties, Republican and Democratic, numerous potential candidates from both parties have hinted toward running for the presidency.
But the example of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s formal announcement for presidency last month, and Jeb Bush’s lack of a official announcement, sets a model for why declaring presidency so early on in the election may not yield optimal returns as some strategists have predicted it to do so.
Latest polling results released from Gallup have displayed unfavorable ratings for Hillary Clinton up 7 percentage points within the last two months. As time progresses, results are showing that Clinton has steadily lost popularity among the general public, especially in key swing states. She may show poise and strength in the primary election, but by the general election, Hillary Clinton could easily lose.
It is nearing the end of May and Clinton’s campaign for presidency is already losing momentum. By the middle of the general election, her resources will be outdone by candidates such as Bush.
At this time, many would predict Bush to have officially announced his candidacy for president. But, as I sit here at the steps of the Capitol after a long day of interning, wondering when Bush will decide to make his official announcement to the nation, there is still no word of any formal declaration. Despite a slip up in the media a week ago, Bush has still not technically declared. He’s used several qualifiers to back up his unofficial announcement and constantly lets the public know what he will do to solve education crises “if,” he runs for president.
So, what is influencing his decision to announce so late in the game and why?
Bush has done something extremely clever in the realm of campaign finance. First, he has decided to halt his official candidacy to raise more funding for his super PAC, Right to Rise. When Citizens United removed the sanction on corporations and unions making what they defined as “independent expenditures and financing electioneering communications,” campaign finance took a new turn.
As long as Bush remains unofficial, he technically has the ability to accept millions of dollars from a single donor, while receiving financial support and funding backed by large corporations and unions, on behalf of his super PAC. Unlike the campaign finance restraints other senatorial candidates such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have, in terms of creating and coordinating a super PAC, Bush can continue to gather more and more support to keep his campaign running until he wins the seat.
But once Bush officially runs for a seat in federal office, he cannot communicate with the super PAC to the same degree. As long as he continues to wait to announce, Bush’s super PAC can put him ahead of Clinton. Both candidates, however, have fluctuating approval rates. Bush might not be the ultimate favorite in the media, but his campaign money, will lend towards several campaign ads and get-out-the-vote mechanisms, which will garner more support for his race.
Second, Bush, unlike his formidable opponent, seems to have noticed that announcing candidacy early on leaves room for loss of momentum. While Clinton’s early announcement appeared to be effective, numbers are saying otherwise. The combination of these two factors are strong enough to predict that Bush will do well in the campaign for presidency, moving ahead of Clinton.
Sarah Dhanaphatana is a junior majoring in political science. Her column, “Capitol Talk,” runs every other Wednesday.