Without much question, part of Donald Trump’s appeal to certain voters is that he is paying most of the costs for his own campaign and therefore won’t be indebted to the kind of deep-pocketed donors that finance other candidates. He talks about it all the time, and always gets a big reaction.
Furthermore, a huge — a staggering, really — majority of Americans believe that rich contributors have too much influence over politicians. So one argument in Trump’s favor is that he won’t owe anything to his rich contributors.
(This is probably a significant factor in the otherwise-puzzling polls results that suggest a significant number of voters are torn between supporting Trump and supporting Bernie Sanders, the other candidate in the race who hasn’t been financed by fatcats.)
Of course, electing Trump would be an odd way of overcoming the influence of billionaires, as it would concentrate influence in the person of one billionaire.
Less often noticed is the fact that Trump’s campaign spends far less than do his rivals for the Republican nomination. The biggest expense in presidential campaigns (including funds spent by what we laughably call “independent” third-party groups such as super PACS) over recent cycles has been for TV ads. But Trump relies — far more than any other campaign, and far more effectively — on tweets and “free media” (which refers to his constant appearances on the cable news channels and the Sunday-morning political talk shows).
It would be interesting if the richest person ever to run for president also turned out to be the candidate who demonstrated that money is no longer as big of a factor in politics as we have believed over recent decades.
But Trump, who is seeking to finish off Marco Rubio Tuesday by beating Rubio in the senator’s home state of Florida (and polls suggest he is well-positioned to pull that off), has made an exception to his general avoidance of TV advertising to run one very nasty attack ad against Rubio.
One of the “benefits” of living in a state like Minnesota that doesn’t get much attention in either the primary/caucus nor the general-election portion of the campaign is that we don’t get much of the dark/depressing/despicable discourse that dominates political advertising. (If, on the other hand, you happen to own a TV station, this is not such a blessing.)
Anyway, if you’d like to see what a Trump-sponsored attack ad looks like, it’s embedded in this New York Times piece (which confirms that Trump was spending heavily on it and which includes a fact-check of the statements in the ad).
And here’s Politifact’s workup of the ad, which led to a rating of “mostly false.”