The Republican National Committee reunited on Friday evening no less than seven potential presidential candidates and more than a dozen members of Congress. They all gathered in Boca Raton, Florida, before the eyes of leading Republican donors.
The meeting, closed to the press, has reportedly outlined three of the candidates as early favorites. Among them, two Floridians – former governor Jeb Bush and Senator Marco Rubio – the third one being revealed as Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. “They have the best ability to unite the various factions of the Republican Party,” Republican pollster Whit Ayres revealed to the reporters his first impression about the gathering.
The three top Republican contenders all managed to draw applause from the 200 donors in the audience when they attacked the foreign policy decisions made by the Obama administration. The two Floridians called for a more decisive support of Israel, while Walker only made a few references to Obama’s foreign policy, focusing more on economy issues in his speech.
According to the donors who attended the conference, all the candidates showed a delicate side, empathizing either with the poor class and the immigrants – in Bush’s case – or with the working-class, as Governor Walker did. They all tried to catch the eye of the donors, and most of the candidates were making visible efforts to persuade big donors to accept their private meeting proposals.
Jeb Bush kept emphasizing his belief that president Obama does not see the US as “a force for good,” drawing the loudest applause from the audience gathered in south Florida. Although he reassured his potential donors of his commitment to conservative principles, he also tried to convince them that unpopular issues, like the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, have to be tackled directly.
While early success in the fundraising campaign does not guarantee the nomination win, statistics from the latest Republican elections show that the race might be decided by June. George W. Bush at Mitt Romney, in 1999 and 2011, respectively, both gained the early lead and stayed ahead until the end, the only exception being McCain’s victory, since by mid-2007 he was only third in the fundraising race but managed to eventually get the party nomination.
One of the facts that might influence donors’ choice is the candidate ability to get the overall win in November 2016. So far, Scott Walker had the best results of all the Republicans when polled against Hillary Clinton, the most likely Democratic opponent. Jeb Bush has the family name on his side, which can both be an advantage and a drawback, while Rubio is seen as a promising prospect by many, partly because of his Latin heritage. “Rubio is an exciting candidate. He’s young and is showing a lot of appeal,” former Republican chairman Wayne MacDonald thinks.
Something is sure, though. None of the Tea Party radical conservatives are given any chance to win, as the Republican Party electors think a more liberal alternative fits better.