Money and Selective Memories

So we have a bit more intelligence about the financial situation from the new, marginal Republican presidential candidates via Bloomberg Politics‘ expert on the subject, Julie Bykowicz. Seems Ben Carson’s pretty well fixed with a small donor base:

There are signs that a Carson candidacy could explode online. A super-political action committee pushing him to run has raised about $13.5 million in less than two years. Carson’s exploratory committee collected more than $2 million in its first 28 days from almost 40,000 donors, according to Mike Murray, a senior adviser to the campaign. The campaign has averaged about 1,000 new donors per day in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, astonishingly enough, Carly Fiorina’s still flush from the golden parachute she was given to get the hell out of the vicinity of HP back in 2005, having just nicked her $21 million severance package in her unsuccessful 2010 Senate campaign.

A political newcomer in that race, she showed a surprising prowess for fundraising, raising $14.7 million in addition to her own investment, Federal Election Commission records show. Her high-profile fundraising hosts and guests during that race included former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Koch Industries, and defense companies, old invitations show.

And yeah, while there aren’t that many Republican voters in California these days, there is still some pretty serious Republican money there.

Bykowicz does not, however, seem to know if the new candidate for whom money could be the biggest variable, Mike Huckabee, has or can borrow some deeper pockets this time around.

In a Washington Examiner column today, Byron York smells some money in Huck’s launch arrangements:

Unlike the bare-bones 2007 announcement, this time Huckabee’s nascent campaign has reserved a block of rooms for reporters in a downtown Little Rock hotel, arranged a dinner for the press the night before the announcement, chartered a bus to take reporters the 115 miles from Little Rock to Hope, set up a filing center, provided for television coverage needs, and more. In other words, this time Huckabee is doing it like a real campaign, with money and everything.

That could all be a Potemkin Village, of course.

What I found most interesting about York’s column, however, was his report on Huck’s campaign message:

Huckabee will argue that he wasn’t just any governor — he was a governor who fought the Clintons every day. Preparing for his announcement, Huckabee’s team sent out an information sheet headlined, “Gov. Mike Huckabee’s Fight Against the Clinton Machine.” It stressed how Huckabee ran Arkansas at a time when the state was controlled by huge Democratic majorities, which were in turn controlled by Bill and Hillary Clinton. “Mr. Huckabee ran against a Democratic machine that pulled out all the stops against him,” the Wall Street Journal reported back in the 1990s.

In the coming campaign, Huckabee will tell voters that he is uniquely qualified to run against Hillary Clinton because he’s been fighting Hillary and Bill Clinton, and their allied forces, for all his political life. And — most importantly — he won.

I can understand how he’d want to make that argument, but I dunno: Huck’s star rose in Arkansas precisely at the time the Clintons had moved on. He had just been trounced by Dale Bumpers in a 1992 Senate race when Clinton’s departure for Washington lifted Jim Guy Tucker to the governorship and opened up the Lite Gov gig for Huckabee, who very narrowly won a special election. Huck became governor in 1996 when Jim Guy resigned after his conviction on mail fraud and conspiracy charges as a byproduct of the Whitewater investigation. But far from being part of any Clinton “machine,” Tucker was a rival of Bill’s, running against him for governor in 1982 and nearly running against him again in 1990.

Whatever shaky case Huck can make that he was fighting the Clintons back when Jebbie was losing a gubernatorial race or whatever, you’d think it would be offset by the focus he’s inviting to his record in Arkansas, which was a rich vein of material for his Republican opponents in 2008–especially the Club for Growth, which labeled him as a tax-raising big-spending criminal-coddler. The Club will be back this year, and I don’t quite see how Huck’s Arkansas record has gotten any better in the interim, especially now that he’s left the state to reside in a fancy new Florida McMansion. But I guess you go with what you’ve got.

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.