TIME Campaign Finance

Major Donors Hedge Their Bets in 2016 Race

Democratic U.S. presidential hopeful and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to members of the media July 14, 2015 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
Alex Wong— 2015 Getty Images Democratic U.S. presidential hopeful and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to members of the media July 14, 2015 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

One donor gave to Hillary Clinton as well as Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham

It’s speed dating season for presidential campaign contributors.

More than 1,000 donors — including some of the nation’s most prominent political benefactors — are hedging their bets by spreading contributions among multiple White House hopefuls, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of new campaign finance disclosures and interviews with top fundraisers.

Most double-donors have divided their loyalties among the 2016 presidential race’s legion of Republicans — a field 15 candidates strong and still growing.

Meanwhile, a few liberal contributors are backing both Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton and one of her four primary challengers. A handful are even donating to Democrats and Republicans, the Center for Public Integrity’s analysis of contributions for the three months ending June 30 indicates.

Equally notable as most presidential candidates on Wednesday filed their first campaign cash disclosures: About half of the nation’s top 100 political donors during the past six years — as identified by the Center for Responsive Politics — haven’t yet donated to any of them, suggesting they haven’t settled on a favorite as yet.

Super contributors still keeping their checkbooks closed when presidential candidates come calling include the likes of conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, as well as hedge fund manager Ken Griffin, TD Ameritrade founder J. Joe Ricketts and coal executive Joe Craft.

These megadonors are not only capable of helping presidential candidates’ own committees with modest contributions, but can also pour millions of dollars into super PACs and outside groups supporting their chosen candidates.

Such giving — legal thanks largely to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision five years ago in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission — can almost single-handedly shift the contours of a presidential race.

So far, the amounts volunteered by outside groups, like super PACs and nonprofits — at least on the Republican side — have dwarfed amounts raised by candidate committees.

Donations to outside groups are unlimited while a contribution to a candidate is capped at $2,700 per election, creating an even greater incentive for campaigns to lock in wealthy activists’ support.

“People are still on the sidelines,” confirmed Gaylord Hughey, a longtime Republican donor and fundraiser in east Texas who is currently raising money for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

The nation’s top 100 political donors reflect that: Twenty-four of them have invested early money in any GOP presidential candidates, according to the Center for Public Integrity’s analysis.

Of them, 10 have financially supported more than one.

Robert McNair, the owner of the Houston Texans, has even donated to three: Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Marco Rubio of Florida.

Meanwhile, about two dozen of the 100 have already donated to Democrat Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

They include Chicago media mogul Fred Eychaner, DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, philanthropist Alida Rockefeller Messinger, Texas trial lawyer Amber Mostyn and entertainment mogul Haim Saban.

One — David desJardins, a software engineer who was an early Google employee — has donated to Democrat Martin O’Malley, the former Maryland governor running against Clinton.

So many choices

Donors spreading wealth to multiple candidates offer varying reasons for their approach to Election 2016.

Take New York City venture capitalist Ken Abramowitz, a staunch Mitt Romney supporter in 2012 who’s already contributed to six Republican candidates this election cycle — Bush, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Rubio, Cruz, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

“I’m right now in the learning phase and I’m trying to learn about the candidates, learn about their thinking, their capabilities of being president,” he said.

Abramowitz said his contributions were all made so he could attend events with the candidates, as he tries to gauge where they fall on issues he cares about: growing the economy, and protecting both the country and “the culture of America.” He mentally grades them on those issues.

“Eventually, I can’t speak for everyone else, but I’ll just guess, we’ll all find one or two candidates that we, so to speak, fall in love with,” Abramowitz said. “A very small minority of people will fall in love at this early stage.”

Diet company founder Jenny Craig of California has fattened the campaign accounts of Bush, Rubio and Cruz.

Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam Adelson, donated to Graham as well as a fundraising committee benefiting Rubio’s U.S. Senate campaign, which Rubio converted into a presidential campaign.

Dallas investment banker-turned-alcohol distributor Sheldon Stein showered Bush, Cruz, Perry and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania with thousands of dollars.

And former World Wrestling Entertainment executive and also-ran U.S. Senate candidate Linda McMahon of Connecticut split donations between Bush and Fiorina. “She has not formally endorsed any one candidate at this time,” said Kate Duffy, a McMahon spokeswoman.

Mica Mosbacher, a Texas fundraiser for Cruz, said in an e-mail that she knows contributors who have donated to multiple candidates and also has talked to some “fence sitters,” though she said Cruz often wins over donors when he talks to them in person.

“Others have said to me that they committed to someone else but Ted is their number two choice so his message is resonating,” she wrote. “And it’s still early.”

More than 50 donors crossed party lines when contributing to multiple presidential candidates.

One, billionaire grocery mogul and would-be New York Daily News owner John Catsimatidis — a self-described moderate — donated to Clinton on the left and Bush, Cruz and Graham on the right.

Nily Falic, a pro-Israel businesswoman from Florida whose family made its millions running duty-free stores, also straddled party lines, donating to Clinton, Rubio and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. The Falics also helped bankroll the recent re-election of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Kevin O’Connor, who oversees governmental and political affairs for the International Association of Fire Fighters, said the union has so far contributed to Bush, Clinton, O’Malley and former Virginia U.S. Sen. Jim Webb, a Democrat. The union also plans to send a check to another Democrat in Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, he said.

“We’re just kind of, if you will, helping our friends out,” he said, citing the union’s positive relationships with all those candidates during their previous stints in office. “There are a number of people in the race that have earned our respect and, to some extent, our support financially, and that’s reflected in what we’re doing in these donations.”

The union will go through its endorsement process and make a decision on its formal endorsement sometime between August and October, he said.

Strictly on the Democratic side, Hollywood honcho David Geffen wrote checks to Clinton and Sanders.

Generating big money early

There are 480 days until Election Day 2016 rolls around, but it doesn’t feel that way on the presidential fundraising circuit.

Before campaign fundraising books closed on June 30, the candidates sent out dozens of desperate fundraising emails with subject lines like “Friend, this is it” and “Last Chance!”

Their goal: to post the highest possible fundraising number for the quarter, the first time most of them were required to file a campaign disclosure report.

The reports, which were due by 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, show some clear winners and losers.

Clinton posted by far the biggest haul of hard money — $47.5 million. She also spent the largest amount, $18.7 million, though she still had the most cash on hand, with $28.9 million.

Celebrities dotted her disclosure, from Beyoncé Knowles-Carter (employer: self-employed; occupation: entrepreneur) to actors Ben Affleck and Leonardo DiCaprio, who all gave the maximum $2,700 allowed toward the primary.

Sanders, a self-described social Democrat, came in second in the cash race with about $15.2 million. Strikingly, more than three-quarters of Sanders’ contributions this quarter came from small-dollar donors who gave $200 or less, compared to about 17 percent of Clinton’s.

Bush came third, with $11.4 million, though the super PAC supporting him has reportedly raised more than $100 million to support his candidacy. Prominent donors to his campaign include hedge fund titan Daniel Loeb and oil and gas billionaire Trevor Rees-Jones. Bush also received at least 56 contributions totaling nearly $150,000 from people who listed investment banking giant Goldman Sachs as their employer.

He was followed by Cruz, with $10 million.

But the campaign committee hauls of Bush and Cruz — and those of several other Republican candidates — were dwarfed by fundraising totals for nominally independent political committees supporting them.

At least five Republican candidates — Fiorina, Bush, Rubio, Perry and Cruz — are backed by super PACs and nonprofits that have reportedly raised millions more than the campaigns themselves.

The outside groups are already picking up the tab for ads and organizing costs in early states. Super PACs aren’t required to reveal their finances until July 31, while nonprofit organizations that support candidates are generally allowed to keep their donors secret.

Candidates technically are not permitted to coordinate with outside groups such as super PACs, although many are pushing the boundaries.

For instance, before officially announcing his candidacy last month, Bush fundraised for Right to Rise, the super PAC supporting him, and it will engage in core functions such as campaign advertising.

Clinton is working directly with Correct the Record, a super PAC that provides it with opposition research but does not advertise. A super PAC supporting Fiorina has publicized her endorsements and answered questions from the press.

“There will be a lot more money spent by super PACs than by the campaigns” this time, said Charlie Black, a longtime Republican lobbyist and fundraiser who is currently neutral in the primary.

“Hard money” raised directly by campaigns does have its advantages despite federal laws limiting how much of it candidates may raise.

The candidates pay lower rates for television ad time, for instance, and have more control over how money is spent.

“If I were running a campaign, I would hate that I can’t control my own campaign, my own message,” Black said.

From April 1 to June 30, presidential candidates collectively reported raising more than $120 million through their campaigns, even though several of them didn’t formally announce until a few weeks ago.

Still, that’s only a fraction of the hundreds of millions of dollars the super PACs and nonprofits supporting them have so far voluntarily disclosed raising — and some of those groups have not yet said how much money they’ve taken in.

Donors writing multimillion-dollar checks to those outside groups, though, may be dancing with more than one date.

Hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer is one example.

He’s reportedly a main donor to a connected group of super PACs supporting Cruz. The groups have said they have raised more than $37 million, though it isn’t yet known how much is from Mercer.

That’s a pretty substantial investment in Cruz. Campaign finance filings yesterday, though, show he and his family also contributed to Fiorina.

TIME 2016 Election

Here’s Which 2016 Candidate’s Book Sold the Most Copies

Hillary Clinton Hard Choices
Simon & Schuster

Who is winning the presidential campaign book primary?

A number of 2016 candidates have released books over the last year, with varying levels of success. So far, none of the Republican candidates have matched former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Hillary Clinton’s memoir, but it came out in mid-2014 so it’s been on the market the longest.

Here’s how the most recent books by 2016 presidential candidates stack up, based on release-to-date sales figures from Nielsen BookScan:

1. Hillary Clinton, Hard Choices

Release date: June 10, 2014

RTD sales: 280,000

2. Mike Huckabee, God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy

Release date: January 20, 2015

RTD sales: 66,000

3. Ben Carson, You Have a Brain: A Teen’s Guide To T.H.I.N.K.B.I.G.

Release date: February 3, 2015

RTD sales: 23,000

4. Ted Cruz, A Time For Truth

Released date: June 30, 2015

RTD sales: 12,000

5. Rand Paul, Taking a Stand

Release date: May 26, 2015

RTD sales: 9,000

6. Marco Rubio, American Dreams

Release date: January 13, 2015

RTD sales: 8,000

7. Rick Santorum, Bella’s Gift

Release date: February 17, 2015

RTD sales: 6,000

8. Carly Fiorina, Rising to the Challenge

Release date: May 5, 2015

RTD sales: 3,000

TIME rick santorum

Rick Santorum Hits Donald Trump: ‘All That Glitters Is Not Gold’

Former Pennsylvania Senator criticizes billionaire rival on his signature issue: immigration

Rick Santorum gets why people are responding to Donald Trump’s bluster about immigration. The former Senator from Pennsylvania just hopes voters take a minute to look at what his billionaire rival for the GOP actually stands for when it comes to policy.

“All that glitters is not gold,” Santorum said with a sly smile Monday as he was asked repeated about Trump and his sudden success among Republicans trying to capture the White House nomination. “He may be tough on the border, on a lot of other immigration issues, but he’s not a conservative on these things.”

The tough line comes as Trump is surging in national polls as likely Republican voters respond positively to his tell-it-like-it-is pitch on immigration. Trump drew thousands for a speech in Arizona on Saturday and shows no sign of letting up on his position that immigrants from Mexico are criminals and that the Mexican government is behind a growing boycott of Trump’s businesses.

“The silent majority is back, and we’re going to take the country back,” Trump said, echoing Richard Nixon’s famous speech about the Vietnam War protests. “We’re going to make America great again.”

Santorum, the 2012 runner-up who is trying again for the GOP nomination, wants to remind voters that he has been tougher on immigration far longer than Trump has been considered a semi-plausible contender. “I saw Donald over the weekend talking about how he wants more and easier legal immigration. He wants more people coming in and wants to make it easier,” Santorum said. “I have a very different approach to that.”

Santorum, indeed, has been at the forefront in calling for 25% fewer immigrants allowed to enter the United States—legally or otherwise—in order to protect jobs for low-skilled Americans’ jobs. “Since 2000, there have been about 6.5 million net new jobs created in this country. What percentage of those net new jobs are held by people who are in this country but not born in this country? The answer is all of them. There are fewer native-born Americans working today than there was in the year 2000,” Santorum said Monday.

“We have more people living in this country who were not born here than at any point in our history,” Santorum said to another question from a reporter at a breakfast organized by The Christian Science Monitor.

For Santorum, who is lagging in the polls and is likely to be excluded from next month’s GOP debate, attacking former reality-show star Trump is a surefire way to grab headlines. With more Americans excited about the immigration debate than the odds of a President Santorum, the tactic is a way to insert Santorum into a conservative that has largely excluded him.

It’s also a way for Santorum to criticize Trump, whose grandiose appearances often lack the specific policy proposals. Santorum, who rose to the No. 3 Republican in the Senate, cannot be accused of lacking a wonk streak.

“Most Americans would like to have this conversation without being made to feel by many that they are anti-immigrant. I don’t think they’re anti-immigrant,” Santorum said. He added “it’s simply a rationale policy discussion that we should be able to have without being called various names.”

TIME rick santorum

Rick Santorum Says Fox News, CNN Drives Polling In Republican Race

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum speaks to guests gathered for the Republican Party of Iowa's Lincoln Dinner at the Iowa Events Center on May 16, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa.
Scott Olson—Getty Images Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum speaks to guests gathered for the Republican Party of Iowa's Lincoln Dinner at the Iowa Events Center on May 16, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa.

The 2012 runner-up could miss the cut for 2016's first debate

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum told a group of national reporters Monday that cable television bookers have too much power to determine who appears at the upcoming debates because they choose who gets news coverage.

“The people who set the game up actually have the biggest influence on who gets in and who doesn’t,” Santorum said of the GOP’s debate partners. “They control in some respects the ability to put their thumb on the scale.”

In less than a month, the top contenders for the Republicans’ presidential nomination will meet for their first debate. Fox News Channel says it will look at a survey of national polls and put the top 10 candidates on its Cleveland stage, while the remainder of hopefuls will find themselves relegated to watching the proceedings on TV. CNN, which will host a debate in the fall, has also said it will use national poll numbers to determine the debate lineup.

“What’s driving national numbers is news coverage,” Santorum said during a meeting with reporters organized by The Christian Science Monitor.

Santorum, a former Pennsylvania Senator who was the runner-up for the GOP nomination in 2012, says that journalists are playing favorites as they decide who to cover in the massive field of as many as 20 Republican candidates for President. As it stands, there is a solid chance that Santorum, who is polling in the low single digits nationally, will not make the cut for the first debate. It’s similar in the early nominating states, such as Iowa and New Hampshire; Santorum is near the back of the packs there despite essentially camping out in Iowa, the state that gave him a surprise win in its caucuses back in early 2012.

Santorum, who once was a paid contributor to Fox News, said he finds it unacceptable that the Republican National Committee is allowing a news organization to decide its eligibility threshold in such a crowded field. “It’s a miscarriage by the RNC to agree to that,” Santorum said.

Debate organizers have argued that they would not be able to find a stage big enough to accommodate every candidate, and it was not reasonable to lump long-shot candidates with more credible options such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush or Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Santorum said he does not have evidence that the networks are intentionally playing favorites, either to help others or to hurt him. But he said voters should not allow conservative-leaning Fox News to cull the field this early in the process. Iowa is not scheduled to have its leadoff caucuses until Feb. 1, 2016.

“If they decided, for example, they wanted Rick Santorum in the debates —that it would be helpful to them for some reason—they can easily say, ‘We’ll put Rick Santorum on every single day and we’re going to have our anchors talk about this and we’re going to do stories on him,’” Santorum said.

So far, that has not happened. Santorum shrugs. During his 2012 campaign, he emerged as the leading foil to eventual nominee Mitt Romney without much of a showing in the debates.

“Can you think of a memorable line that Rick Santorum said?” Santorum asked. “No. That’s not me.”

It is why Santorum is heading back to Iowa. Over the next 33 days, he will spend 19 of them in Iowa in the hopes of repeating his upset win over Romney there four years ago.

TIME 2016 Election

Romney, McCain Criticize GOP Debate Rules

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (L) and former presidential nominee U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) hold a campaign town hall meeting at the Peterborough Town House January 4, 2012 in Peterborough, New Hampshire.
Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (L) and former presidential nominee U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) hold a campaign town hall meeting at the Peterborough Town House January 4, 2012 in Peterborough, New Hampshire.

The last two Republican presidential nominees aren’t happy about how the next one will be selected.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Sen. John McCain are criticizing the Republican National Committee and the TV networks hosting the first two GOP primary debates this summer for setting limits on participation. Under rules adopted by Fox News and CNN in consultation with the party, only the top 10 in national polls will make the main stage, with the balance of the at least 15 candidates in the race relegated to second-tier forums.

“I think if you had these rules in 2007, I may never have been able to be the nominee of the party in 2008,” McCain told TIME.

“I think that it basically shuts out, obviously people who aren’t well known, but it also diminishes the importance of a state like New Hampshire, where people can come out of no where through their performance in the state and be successful,” McCain added.

Romney criticized the debate criteria Friday evening in an interview with Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly at his E2 Summit for Republican donors according to attendees, saying they artificially narrow down the field.

The RNC took control of the debates process as part of its response to its 2012 defeat, believing that the 23 debates held that cycle weakened Romney in the general election and that they served less as a venue for debating policy solutions than attempting the character assassination of rivals. But it left the final determination of the selection criteria up to the networks.

Several Republican candidates, including Sen. Rick Santorum, Sen. Lindsey Graham, former neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Gov. Bobby Jindal have been critical of the debate reforms, and have called on the party to take steps to allow all the candidates to participate. McCain, who is backing Graham, and Romney suggested holding back-to-back debates with candidates randomly divided between the two.

“It’s time to revisit this situation and make sure we are not fostering a process that eliminates a candidate before they’ve had a chance,” McCain said.

Republican National Committee Chief Strategist Sean Spicer defended the debate rules.

“The largest number of presidential candidates that has ever been on a stage in either party is 10. We are pleased that both Fox and CNN have recognized the quantity of highly qualified candidates in our party and have sought to create the most inclusive scenario by giving any candidate polling above 1% time on the stage to have their voice heard,” he said.

TIME 2016 Election

Iowa Straw Poll Dead at 36, Killed by Irrelevance

Fairgoers over the age of 18 are invited to drop one piece of corn into one of 14 jars with photos of their favorite Republican presidential candidate during the second day of the Iowa State Fair ahead of the Iowa Straw Poll on Aug. 12, 2011 in Des Moines, Iowa.
Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images Fairgoers over the age of 18 are invited to drop one piece of corn into one of 14 jars with photos of their favorite Republican presidential candidate during the second day of the Iowa State Fair ahead of the Iowa Straw Poll on Aug. 12, 2011 in Des Moines, Iowa.

With so few credible candidates committed, Iowa Republicans pulled the plug on a longtime tradition.

The Iowa Straw Poll that measured the intensity of the state’s most conservative activists and their love of free ice cream—and little else—was declared dead Friday at the age of 36. The cause of death was irrelevance.

Long criticized as a political circus that awards candidates who were willing to pander to the GOP’s extremist corner, the Straw Poll had been at risk for months. The Republican Party of Iowa tried to resuscitate an institution that, in the words of Iowa’s Republican Governor, “had outlived its usefulness.”

Members of Iowa’s central committee offered the Straw Poll life support: they ended the pay-to-play nature of the event, offered candidates free tent space and utilities if they would just show up for the Aug. 8 event in Boone and allowed food trucks to come onto the property so guests were not drawn to a candidate’s camp just to get a meal. Yes, they acknowledged, the Straw Poll had only once picked the Republican who would go on to win the party’s nominee, but it’s been a tradition since 1979. Now, it joins other traditions that have expired, such as voting at midnight at New Hampshire’s Balsam’s Resort or South Carolina’s primary being a must-win for Republicans.

“I’ve said since December that we would only hold a Straw Poll if the candidates wanted one, and this year that is just not the case,” Iowa GOP Chairman Jeff Kaufmann said in a statement, announcing there would be no long lines for candidate-supplied Dairy Queen soft serve or Famous Dave’s pulled pork sandwiches that were a go-to in previous confabs. “This step, while extremely distasteful for those of us who love the Straw Poll, is necessary to strengthen our first-in-the-nation status and ensure our future nominee has the best chance possible to take back the White House in 2016.”

Iowa still holds the leadoff caucuses, scheduled this time for Feb. 1, 2016. But many candidates are also keeping the state at arm’s length. Iowans demand candidates spend an inordinate amount of time answering their questions, eating their farm’s corn and shuffling through dusty fairgrounds. Conservatives are also quick to criticize candidates, as was the case last week when a gun rights activist confronted Sen. Lindsey Graham at a town hall-style meeting. On the American Conservative Union’s 1-to-100 scorecard, Graham has a lifetime score of 87. Yet he drew a heckler for a procedural vote. A day later, Graham again dismissed the Straw Poll. “It’s not a good return on investment for me. I’ll think I’m going to spend my money elsewhere,” Graham said. “I’m going to show up, go to birthday parties, go to weddings, bar mitzvahs—wherever they will have me.”

The daylong carnival-like atmosphere in 2012, held in its traditional spot in Ames, left many in the party publicly groaning and privately plotting its demise. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota enjoyed her triumph in an air-conditioned tent, cheered as confetti cannons blasted shredded paper over her crowd and country singer Randy Travis performed. She became an instant contender, thanks to the 4,823 participants who cast their ballot for Bachmann. Five months later, 6,064 Iowans caucused for her—a distant sixth place. Establishment-minded Republicans sighed that Bachmann drew the focus from Mitt Romney, 2012’s eventual nominee who chose to skip the Straw Poll and its vote-buying-by-another-name altogether.

Sen. Joni Ernst last week half-heartedly defending her home state’s $30-per-person Straw Poll at her own rally in Boone. “We really want the grassroots activists to come and out vote on who they want to see as their candidate,” Ernst said, standing at the site where the Straw Poll was to be held. Asked what would happen if candidates skipped, she shrugged. “It’s not disqualifying.”

Even as she was defending the institution, it was clear that many members of the top-tier contenders were planning to skip. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who is atop the polls in Iowa, refused to pledge to participate in the melee. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who used a second-place finish during the 2008 campaign to give his spendthrift bid a boost, said he would skip the Boone afternoon, too. For many there was only a downside: Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty ended his bid the day after a third-place finish during the 2012 race; Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback placed third in the Straw Poll during his 2008 bid and never recovered. This year’s candidates such as Walker, Huckabee and even former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum can only lose if they come short of expectations.

In its ideal format, the Straw Poll gave lesser-known candidates like Huckabee a shot on the national stage. But in practice, the event rewarded heavy spending; Romney won the 2007 edition after spending millions, only to have Huckabee’s insurgence win the headlines. Four years later, he followed the model set by John McCain’s 2008 bid for the nomination and kept away. Iowans didn’t punish him and gave him essentially a tie for the top spot when it came time to caucus.

Indeed, only once had the clear winner of the Straw Poll gone on to win the GOP nomination. Sens. Bob Dole and Phil Gramm tied at the Straw Poll on the road to the 1996 nomination; Dole won the nomination. And, really, only a member of the Bush clan has ever been both the clear winner of the Straw Poll and the Iowa Caucuses. George W. Bush, of course, in 2000. His father, George H.W. Bush won the inaugural Straw Poll in 1979 and the 1980 Iowa Caucuses. He lost out on the nominee to Ronald Reagan and, when Bush successfully tried again in 1988, he ran a distant third—behind fiery televangelist Pat Robertson who in his platform proposed banning pornography.

In the end, it was that irrelevance that doomed the straw poll. May it rest in peace.

TIME politics

Rick Santorum’s Role in the Republican Renewal

rick santorum pennsylvania iowa republican
Charlie Neibergall—AP Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum speaks during the Iowa Republican Party's Lincoln Dinner, on May 16, 2015, in Des Moines.

The 2016 contender came into the public eye during one of his party's most pivotal moments

Rick Santorum, in announcing on Wednesday that he would try for the Republican nomination for the 2016 presidential race, joins a crowded field of political contenders.

But it won’t be the first time that the former Pennsylvania Senator and 2012 also-ran has made a splash as part of a large group.

When Santorum first made national news, it was in 1994, as an upstart Congressman going to bat for Senator Harris Wofford’s seat. In covering the race, TIME cast Santorum as a barometer of the nation’s stance toward issues that stretched far beyond the state’s borders:

A party that opposes the President unyieldingly, he reasons, gets a nice, sharp profile. It could work, for instance, on health-care reform, one battle most Americans tell pollsters they are are no longer sure they want the President to win. That the issue, once a sure plus for Democrats, is now a more complicated blessing is evident in Pennsylania, where Democratic Senator Harris Wofford is in a tricky race against Rick Santorum, a Republican Congressman who promises to protect voters from government interference in their health-care decisions. It was Wofford’s surprise victory three years ago over Dick Thornburgh, after a campaign that made health-care reform an issue, that first alerted politicians to its potential. But while Wofford is far ahead of Santorum in fund raising this year, their contest is a toss-up. ”Health care is a significant factor that has energized a lot of people who are nonpolitical,” says Santorum, with the clear implication that this time the newcomers are his.

As we now know, of course, Santorum was right.

That was the year of Newt Gingrich’s ascension, and when election time rolled around, the Republican Party’s midterm gains were immense. As TIME put it, “voters angrily revoked the Democrats’ 40-year lease on the Congress,” as the G.O.P. picked up seats in both houses of Congress and in gubernatorial seats across the country. Representative Toby Roth of Wisconsin put it even more strongly: “[This] was more than an election. It was a revolution.”

Santorum’s conservative appeal to voters carried the day in Pennsylvania, just as his colleagues found success in other states. The political sea change of 1994 continues to reverberate throughout the political world—and Santorum’s latest try for the presidency is only one way of many.

Read the full cover story, here in the TIME Vault: G.O.P. Stampede

TIME rick santorum

Rick Santorum Starts Presidential Run Looking Back

Leaning on Republicans' traditions, he makes the case that 2016 is his turn

Correction appended, May 27

Rick Santorum was closing out his speech to the GOP’s governing class at a posh desert resort near Phoenix. His time to address the Republican National Committee coming to a close, he took a moment to remind the party’s elders of their history. “We stick with tradition,” the former Senator from Pennsylvania said in early May.

With restless party chairmen and activists shifting in their seats, the failed 2012 candidate made a not-so-subtle pitch for the Santorum for President, 2016 Edition, which started on Wednesday, with a rally in Cabot, Pa.

“Since primaries and caucuses went into effect, every Republican nominee has met one of three tests,” Santorum said in Arizona. “One, they were Vice President. Two, they were the son of a former President. And three, they came in second place the last time and ran again and won.”

If history were predictive of how Republicans pick their nominee, then 2016’s nomination should be Santorum’s for the taking. He came in second to Romney in 2012 and, in his telling, won as many nominating contests as Reagan did during his 1976 bid. (In truth, Reagan won 11 primaries in 23 states, whereas Santorum won a combined 11 contests in states that held primaries and caucuses.)

But history alone is not going to overcome Santorum’s significant obstacles as he seeks the White House for a second time. With a penchant for incendiary language, a stronger crop of likely competitors, an expected nine-figure deficit against his rivals for the nod, few of his competitors now count him in the top tier of candidates, and there are serious questions about him even making the cut for the first debate on Aug. 6.

“I know what it’s like to be an underdog,” Santorum said in Pennsylvania’s Butler County on Wednesday, beginning an uphill climb for the nomination. “Four years ago, well, no one gave us much of a chance. But we won 11 states. We got 4 million votes. And it’s not just because I stood for something. It’s because I stood for someone: the American worker.”

But this time, Santorum faces a tougher field of competitors. Fresh-faced newcomers, such as Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, have the GOP optimistic it can appeal beyond its shrinking footprint. Conservative rock stars such as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas can electrify crowds. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee can tap into his past as a Baptist pastor and whip the Christian conservative base of the party into a frenzy. And former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has the pedigree and roster of campaign donors that might overshadow missing other traits voters say they are seeking.

Santorum, out of office since early 2007 after losing reelection by 18 percentage points, can do none of those. He is 57—a decade older than some of his rivals and roughly in the middle of the pack when it comes to birthdays. He fails to energize conservative audiences with speeches that are closer to college lectures than political rallying cries. He speaks about his faith in deeply personal ways but cannot match Huckabee in the pulpit. And Santorum is an admittedly terrible fundraiser, often turning off would-be donors with his contrarian style.

“The last race, we changed the debate,” Santorum told his kick-off rally. “This race, with your help and God’s grace, we can change this nation. Join us.”

His crowds so far this year have been thin. But Santorum is used to that. He toiled in relative obscurity in 2011, visiting all 99 Iowa counties in the passenger seat of an activist’s pickup. He staged a surprise win in the leadoff caucuses but had insufficient infrastructure to capitalize on Iowa’s enthusiasm.

Instead, he turned to often divisive and cantankerous rhetoric. For instance, Santorum could seldom open his mouth with unleashing an invective about others and cast himself as a victim. He called Romney “the worst Republican in the country to put up against Barack Obama.” He said John F. Kennedy’s 1960 speech, in which the future president said “the separation of church and state is absolute,” made the Pennsylvania Senator “want to throw up.” Santorum promised that, as President, he would talk about “the dangers of contraception in this country, the whole sexual libertine idea.”

Earlier this year, Santorum told NBC News that his 2012 campaign was defined by “dumb things” he said and “crazy stuff that doesn’t have anything to do with anything.” He acknowledges things went off the rails the further into the nominating process he hobbled, even as his campaign was running out of cash and the White House nod grew increasingly impossible to snag.

Even so, Santorum crowed to a tea party crowd in South Carolina earlier this year: “I was the last person standing.” He earned 234 pledged delegates to the party’s nominating convention in Tampa. Romney had amassed more than 1,400.

Even so, Santorum tells voters and reporters his political endurance qualifies him to become the nominee this time. He insists he is battle-tested under pressure, unlike his rivals.

“As you’ve seen, Commander in Chief is not an entry-level position, and the White House is the last place for on-the-job training,” Santorum said Wednesday.

Santorum has his history right. Mitt Romney was rewarded the nomination in 2012 after failing to win it in 2008. John McCain’s 2000 failed run was rewarded with the nomination in 2008. Bob Dole won the nomination in 1992 after an unsuccessful turn as the GOP’s 1976 Vice Presidential nominee. George H.W. Bush was the nominee in 1988 after losing to Ronald Reagan in the 1980 primaries and then serving eight years as his Vice President. Reagan himself won the 1980 nomination after failing to win the nod in 1976. Richard Nixon won the White House in 1968; he served eight years as Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Vice President before losing the Presidency as the GOP nominee in 1960.

Only four times in the last 60 years has the Republican electorate nominated a Presidential neophyte—and the most recent examples are suspect at best. George W. Bush, the son of a President, won the White House in 2000 as a first-time national candidate. Gerald Ford rose to the Presidency after Nixon’s resignation and lost the White House in 1976 to Democrat Jimmy Carter as a first-time coast-to-coast candidate. Barry Goldwater came up short as the GOP nominee in 1964, and Eisenhower won the 1952 nomination and Presidency as a first-time political candidate.

But those figures—new and veteran—ran sophisticated campaigns and had not alienated great swaths of the GOP. Santorum’s situation looks different, with several of his former top advisers having defected for other campaigns: 2012 campaign manager Mike Biundo is a Paul senior adviser. Spokespeople Hogan Gidley and Alice Stewart have signed with Huckabee. Even Santorum’s erstwhile driver from 2012, Chuck Laudner, has abandoned him—for Donald Trump.

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the date of the first Republican presidential debate. It is Aug. 6.

TIME 2016 Election

Why Josh Duggar’s Past Will Hurt Social Conservatives

Many movement leaders have been close to the reality star now accused of child molestation

As a reality-TV star famous for being part of a large conservative family, Josh Duggar had a public visibility that made him attractive to advocacy groups hoping he could spotlight their shared opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage. Now, as he responds to accusations of child molestation as a teenager, that same visibility could hurt the cause.

A police report detailed grim accusations against Duggar, one of the stars of TLC’s series 19 Kids and Counting. According to the newly released report, Duggar, the oldest child, allegedly sexually molested five minors, when he was 15. Jim Bob Duggar, his father, did not report the incidents to police for more than a year.

The political reaction was swift. Duggar, now 27, resigned from his role at the Family Research Council on Thursday, the same day the report was released owing to a Freedom of Information Act request.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, hired Duggar to lead Family Research Council Action, the group’s lobbying arm, in 2013. Duggar was 25, a young, popular TV star who poised to help advance the conservative evangelical political platform. “Josh and his wife Anna have been an inspiration to millions of Americans who regularly tune in to see the Duggar family’s show, and all of us at Family Research Council and FRC Action have long appreciated their commitment to the profamily movement,” Perkins said at the time.

But Duggar worked to be more than a pop-culture icon, he was a favored son in social-conservative politics. He served on two presidential campaigns, Mike Huckabee’s in 2008 and Rick Santorum’s in 2012, and during the recent midterms he campaigned for Senate candidates in Kansas, Mississippi and Virginia. Politics were also part of his upbringing. His father Jim Bob served two terms in the Arkansas house of representatives (1998–2002) and ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in 2002, around the time of the allegations against his son.

Josh Duggar focused his work at FRC Action on grassroots outreach, frequently fighting to keep the definition of marriage between a man and a woman. He was at the Supreme Court for arguments on same-sex marriage in April and helped to lead the March for Marriage rally in Washington that week. In December he campaigned, successfully, against an LGBT nondiscrimination measure in Arkansas that he said put children at risk. He tweeted that Islam attacked women. He said his family was the “epitome of conservative values.”

Conservative GOP candidates valued Duggar as a way to advance their agenda and leverage his constituents. He has tweeted photos of him with nearly all the 2016 GOP White House hopefuls — Huckabee, Santorum, Scott Walker, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, to name just some in his timeline — and countless representatives, Senators, governors and operatives, from Senator James Lankford to Sarah Palin to GOP head Reince Priebus. He retweeted politicians who promoted FRC Action’s agenda, and challenged others who stood against it. Just last week he pushed hard on social media to promote the U.S. House’s Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act and tweeted at Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards, “Sorry, but you’re the one lacking compassion.”

But what was Duggar’s political value for Family Research Council, his moral example, has now become a cost. The group has looked to the 2016 elections as an opportunity to advance their cause, especially since there are so many candidates with similar values on family and marriage. Perkins also currently leads the Council for National Policy, a group that quietly seeks to vet candidates. Plus, everyone is bracing for the Supreme Court to decide a landmark gay-marriage case in late June, and the Family Research Council has been at the forefront of working to stop the spread of gay marriage.

That entire agenda is now compromised, and the Family Research Council has to pick up the pieces. Perkins issued a statement Thursday night, saying that the group was previously unaware of Duggar’s past, and that Duggar himself made the decision to resign because he realized “that the situation will make it difficult for him to be effective in his current work.” In the statement, Perkins agreed: “We believe this is the best decision for Josh and his family at this time.”

The Family Research Council will have to find a new executive director for its lobbying arm, and attempt to recover the ground lost from this setback. FRC Action has also removed Duggar’s information from its website. (His bio on FRC Action’s website stated: “Drawing from his unique experiences in family, entertainment, politics and business, Josh seeks to use his God-given platform to encourage others to be engaged in the political process.”)

Reactions from the conservative side still remain to be seen. Huckabee became one of the first politicians to back Duggar on Friday morning. “Josh’s actions when he was an underage teen are, as he described them himself, ‘inexcusable,’ but that doesn’t mean ‘unforgivable,’” he wrote on Facebook. “He and his family dealt with it and were honest and open about it with the victims and the authorities. No purpose whatsoever is served by those who are now trying to discredit Josh or his family by sensationalizing the story.”

Read next:

TLC Should Cancel 19 Kids and Counting

Here’s What Happened to Other TV Shows Embroiled in Controversy Like 19 Kids and Counting

TIME Republican Party

Republicans Prepare for Painstaking Nomination Fight

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus at the National Press Club in Washington, in 2013.
Manuel Balce Ceneta—AP Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus at the National Press Club in Washington, in 2013. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus at the National Press Club in Washington, in 2013.

It could be like the Obama-Clinton fight of 2008, only with more candidates

After Mitt Romney’s bruising nomination fight in 2012, Republican Party officials changed the rules in an effort to streamline the 2016 primaries. But the increased influence of super PACs and an unusually deep bench of candidates mean the changes could have the opposite effect intended.

Several Republican presidential hopefuls are already preparing for a long, blistering and potentially inconclusive nominating fight that could go all the way to the national convention.

“The rules were designed to make it more of a contest so that more states and activists are engaged in the process—and that’s definitely going to happen,” says Steve Duprey, the New Hampshire National Committeeman who helped to shepherd the rules changes through in 2012 and 2013. “The bad news is, this campaign is likely to go on longer than we’ve seen in a long time.”

Republican Party officials blamed a broken primary process in 2012 for contributing to Romney’s defeat and set about changing the party rules to keep it from happening again.

The committee shortened the calendar between the first caucus and the last primary, required the binding of delegates in primaries and caucuses and raised the bar for nominating candidates on the convention floor, requiring a nominee to win the majority of eight state or territory delegations. The idea was that a compressed timetable would favor better-funded candidates, while keeping lesser candidates from making a scene in Cleveland.

But three years later, the primary will be playing out in a very different stage, one where a massive crop of candidates with huge sums of unlimited cash have little incentive to exit early. Party operatives and campaign aides are predicting a longer, more intense contest next year than in 2012. They believe it will be more akin to the Obama-Clinton fight in 2008—a slow state-by-state contest to rack up delegates—only with a lot more candidates remaining competitive.

On paper, the RNC’s efforts will shorten the time from the Iowa Caucuses to when the nominee clinches a majority of delegates—primarily accomplished by a successful effort to keep the first contests from advancing into February. But Romney’s victory was all-but-assured months before he secured 50% of convention delegates in late May 2012.

Josh Putnam, an assistant professor at Appalachian State University who runs the exhaustive Frontloading HQ blog tracking the primary calendar, explains that about 50% of delegates to the GOP convention will be awarded by March 8, 2016, with 75% awarded by April 26—both weeks earlier than in 2012. “That is important because the last two Republican nominees established a lead by that 50% point and had clinched the nomination around the time that 75% of the delegates had been allocated,” he says.

But changes in campaign finance and an unusually strong field threaten to throw that precedent out the window. Now many party strategists expect four to six candidates to emerge as a top tier from the four early states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina. With roughly the same delegate support and momentum, they expect that the proportional contests in early March—when a front-runner usually emerges—may not be decisive. On March 1, for instance, more than 600 delegates are set to be awarded. “Lots of people will be able to claim victory that day,” said one top advisor to a Republican candidate.

Meanwhile, the rest of field may be in no hurry to go anywhere. The explosion of mega-donors writing significant checks to candidates and their super PACs has mitigated the historical impetus for dropping out, while the lessons of the up-and-down 2012 primary have incentivized staying in the race even when the odds turns slim.

“This could actually be a convention that matters for the first time since 1964,” says Saul Anuzis, the Michigan state chairman for Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential bid and a former RNC member who backed the rules changes. “I still don’t think most of the campaigns have an infrastructure in place to deal with it.”

Not all strategists blame the predictions of a messy nomination process on the new rules. Michael Shields, the former RNC chief of staff, told TIME he believes the deciding factor in stretching out the primary in 2016 is likely to be the number of candidates who can raise money. “It would have been longer without the reform,” he said.

To be sure, all the prognosticating could also be wrong—a single candidate could build enough momentum in the early states to run away with the nomination in weeks. But with a field of more than a dozen candidates that appears at the moment to be unlikely.

Some campaigns are only just coming to the realization that this contest will be far different from the last, having spent the past months focused on the early states. “Those who have started to think it through recognize it’s going to be a long chase for delegates,” said a veteran GOP strategist.

Anuzis said Cruz is planning for the long haul and is already eyeing favorable congressional districts in California—which will go to the polls on June 7, 2016, and awards its delegates to the winners in each congressional district. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign has hired Jon Waclawski, a veteran of the RNC counsel’s office who was involved in drafting the rules after the 2012 campaign, as its counsel and chief delegate counter. People close to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s campaign said his team is drawing up plans to deal with what they expect to be a painstaking fight for delegates.

“This changes the way you have to run your entire campaign,” says one candidate aide. “You really do have to target, racking up local endorsements, for instance. Those people are going to be important when you’re competing on a congressional district by congressional district basis.”

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s advisers see the proportional contests in early March, and the potential for a drawn out delegate fight, working to their advantage. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum told reporters Thursday that he is broadly supportive of the rules changes, but is worried about the compressed calendar, “and it becomes just a money issue, and not an issue of momentum.”

What remains to be seen is whether this intensified primary process will be a benefit or liability to the eventual nominee in the general election. The knockdown, drag-out 2008 Democratic contest is viewed as having ultimately helped Obama, who emerged tested with a network of support outside of the early primary states. For months after winning the nomination, Republican presumptive nominee Sen. John McCain could hardly gain notice from the media­. “Will there be some broken glass, will there be some negative attacks, sure,” Shields acknowledged. “But I do believe this process, like the Obama-Hillary one, will leave our nominee stronger.”

Others are less sanguine, fearing the compressed timeframe could result in a more weakened nominee, battered by months of attacks from candidates and super PACs

“It’s pretty different when it’s a two person extended race opposed to a multi-person race—and in 2008 you didn’t have super PACs playing the role that they did and they generally tend to go negative,” said another longtime GOP operative.

With reporting by Philip Elliott/Little Rock, Ark.

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