A relatively quick hit for Saturday afternoon, but this Washington Post story brings up some interesting questions. Scott Walker was, at one point, looking like the frontrunner and candidate of destiny who would bring the fight to Jeb Bush in a big way. (This was mostly Pre-Trump, of course.) And yet after only roughly seventy days he was out of the race. One of the reasons cited at the time was “fundraising issues” but it’s only becoming clear now precisely how bad off his team was. In fact, he had raised a lot of money but was spending it even faster.
When Scott Walker dropped out of the presidential race late last month because he could no longer afford to continue, many of his fundraisers and supporters were stunned. They couldn’t believe the candidate had burned through so much money so quickly.
Walker’s campaign raised $7,379,170 between July 1 and Sept. 30, according to federal paperwork filed on Thursday. And during that time, they spent $6,393,957 and had bills for $161,133. Given that Walker’s campaign lasted just 70 days — from July 13 to Sept. 21 — that means each day cost more than $90,000.
When Walker dropped out of the race, the campaign had nearly $1 million left, although that money will likely go toward paying ongoing contracts, leases and other expenses that can continue even when a campaign stops.
When a campaign is riding high in the polls and the money is rolling in it’s easy to get ahead of yourself. If you want to pursue an aggressive advertising and travel strategy it’s an option that’s available to you when it looks like you’re the golden child and the money will keep raining down on your head. But in this case, it doesn’t even look like Walker was flushing his cash into fixed cost, unavoidable expenses like air time. The details linked in his campaign finance reports show a staff with very generous salaries even by presidential race standards, not to mention an army of pricey consultants. There was also the usual contingent of vendors and other suppliers which latch on to any campaign with money to spend.
Going back to the original point, these costs may look extravagant at first blush, but it’s the sort of thing you can get away with when you’re the top dog. You really do want the highest power staff available and the best way to keep them working hard and happy (not to mention quiet) is to pay them well and not drive them into the ground more than necessary. As long as you can keep bringing in millions per month, that’s a risk you may want to take. (Of course, at some point you have to start saving up cash for the air war in the general, but the early days of he primary are different.)
Then Trump came along and the rest is history. But how much blame should be tossed toward Walker and his staff? If they’d been more frugal with their donations he might have been able to stick around for another month or two even after his fundraising dried up, but would it really have mattered? He’d probably have run out by now and Trump hasn’t gone away. If it all would have worked out the same in the end anyway, maybe Walker made the smart move after all.