A Koch Primary?

The plot sure is thickening. Mike Allen has this rather different follow-on to Nick Confessore’s scoop on the Koch Brothers’ plans for the 2016 nomination process:

Charles and David Koch are considering throwing their massive wealth and sophisticated organization into the Republican presidential primary for the first time, a potentially game-changing boost that could make even a second-tier candidate instantly viable.

Wow. Does that mean the murky talk about Scott Walker being the apple of the Kochian eye could be about to burst forth into the Super-est PAC of them all, despite all the disclaimers tossed out after Confessore’s piece appeared? Maybe, or maybe not:

In another surprise, a top Koch aide revealed to POLITICO that Jeb Bush will be given a chance to audition for the brothers’ support, despite initial skepticism about him at the top of the Kochs’ growing political behemoth.

Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Rand Paul and Sen. Ted Cruz debated at the Koch network’s winter seminar in January, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker made a separate appearance. Those were the candidates who appeared to have a chance at the Koch blessing, and attendees said Rubio seemed to win that round.

Yeah, we remember that.

But those four — plus Jeb – will be invited to the Kochs’ summer conference, the aide said. Bush is getting a second look because so many Koch supporters think he looks like a winner. Other candidates, perhaps Rick Perry or Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, may also get invitations.

As for the Confessore report that the Kochs had more or less settled on Walker as a favorite, Allen says we just don’t understand:

Koch insiders dismissed that conclusion, saying the brothers have made similar comments about several of the candidates, and are far from settling on a favorite. “It’s really early, and a lot is going to happen,” the aide said. “We wouldn’t want to take options off the table by getting behind one of them now.”

But Allen’s source was real specific about somebody getting the Koch nod before the ultimate deal goes down:

The brothers are likely to make a decision about whether to pick a horse many months from now, so that they have time to see how the candidates perform in debates, how they articulate issues the Kochs care about, and how strong a staff they have assembled.

The Kochs and their advisers will be looking for a candidate who is “solid on economic-freedom issues,” is “a passionate advocate for free markets,” and has “a positive, optimistic, pro-freedom message,” the aide said.

A candidate will get considerable extra credit for being on the brothers’ side of reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank, which Koch organizations are spending big to oppose.

The brothers are most likely to make a selection after the field has been winnowed to a few plausible candidates, perhaps giving their pick a boost against the establishment favorite.

The Kochs have resisted jumping into presidential primaries in the past because they questioned the value of the investment. But last cycle, they were left with Mitt Romney, who didn’t excite their network’s donors.

If Allen’s source is right, the Bros are putting out what amounts to an RFP, requesting major suck-ups from the entire GOP field. This could be to influence candidate positioning, or it could all be a smokescreen to legitimate a decision already made. Who knows? Not me. But I do know a nomination process with a whole lot of sub-primaries may have just gotten another one

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.