The price of running for president is having to constantly replenish campaign coffers to get from one campaign hurdle to the next.
Just getting to February 2016 and the first primaries in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada requires candidates to spend money throughout 2015 on transportation, headquarters, fundraising and organization building, according to veteran Republican strategist Karl Rove writing in The Wall Street Journal.
Having enough cash to stay competitive will occupy the energies of every Republican presidential strategist struggling to get to next February and then to stay alive in March.
Only 5.4 percent of the 2,471 Republican total delegates are up for grabs in the Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada contests. Rove estimates that campaign strategists will want to buy a minimum of four weeks of TV advertising — priced roughly at $16 million — to win their votes. That figure does not include Internet advertising, mail, phones and radio, bringing media costs for February up to $20 million.
Then comes March, which is jammed with primaries.
Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and Virginia vote on March 1. Hawaii, Michigan, and Ohio go to the polls on March 8.
That puts another 24.3 percent of convention delegates on the line. Rove estimates that the media tab for these primaries will run between $20 million and $30 million.
"This poses problems for campaigns that can raise enough money for a February buy-in but cannot replenish their coffers for March unless they win dramatic early upsets that give them momentum, create a bump in the polls and cause money to flood in from donors big and small," Rove writes.
Moreover, the early states award their delegates proportionally, making it hard for a candidate to "pull away from the pack by mid-March," he writes.
Next comes March 15, with winner-take-all primaries, probably in Florida, Illinois, and Missouri, and twice as many delegates at stake than in all the February states. The media bill here will run at least $10 million.
"So campaigns now face complicated decisions," writes Rove. "If they spend too much this year and have little left over for next year's battles, they are dead.
"Which is why every campaign is grappling with spending priorities and how to squirrel away cash."
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