WASHINGTON — So, folks, what have we learned from the arduous, exhausting, crazy GOP primaries so far? It's all about money.
The majority of those who have voted have not wanted former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney to be the Republican presidential nominee, but he had so much money from wealthy friends he bullied his way into being front-runner.
So-called super PACS, which raise huge amounts of money with no legal limits and few disclosures because of a 2010 Supreme Court decision, swooped in to help Romney by blasting former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia with barrages of negative ads in Iowa. Gingrich, who keeps bobbing back up to the surface, became an asterisk in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Then a rich guy wrote a $5 million check to Gingrich, who eschewed his refusal to go negative and unleashed his own negative ads against Romney in South Carolina. The man who had a million-dollar line of credit at Tiffany's berated Romney for being super rich.
Meanwhile, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who had been an asterisk for months, wowed Iowa as others fell by the wayside. Remember Michele Bachmann who won the Iowa straw poll, ran out of money and quit after the Iowa caucuses? Remember Tim Pawlenty? And money started rolling into Santorum's campaign.
Meanwhile, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who had more than $17 million in contributions, kept flubbing his debate lines, got walloped in Iowa and went home to Texas to decide whether to continue. His family said as long as there was still money, he should keep running. He went to South Carolina, where Republicans said he wasn't ready for prime time. So he quit and endorsed Gingrich, noting "he's not perfect." As in, please: Anybody but Romney.
Gingrich, whose top campaign team quit just a few months ago citing his lack of discipline, whose marital history is the stuff of soap operas, who excoriated Freddie Mac while accepting their $1.6 million, who was drummed out of Congress on ethical violations, is more convinced than ever he can knock out Romney. He thinks he'll win because of his bombastic style and millions of dollars from conservatives who keep begging: Please, anybody but Romney.
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama has been raising money by the barrelful. Reportedly, his campaign hopes to have a billion dollars to try to counter the gloomy economy and high unemployment rates. Historically, no incumbent president has been re-elected with an unemployment rate this high (8.5 percent).
Now here's a shocker. By the end of 2012, the elections are expected to cost $6 billion — $1 billion more than the 2008 elections.
And what is this election all about? Jobs? Presidents don't "create" jobs. The economy is improving; whoever is elected in 2012 is likely to preside over further improvements no matter what he does. But he will take full credit for it, of course. If the economy slips again, it will be because of international economic pressures and chaos, not because of policies from the White House.
No, this election fueled by money is about money. Will the "1 percent" continue to keep their economic perks, such as the 15 percent Romney says he pays in taxes compared with much higher rates paid by middle-income families? Will big corporations see further deregulation giving them more control over employees and less governmental oversight? Will we improve our infrastructure or provide more breaks for the wealthy? How will middle-income families get their mojo back?
But despite the rhetoric, divisiveness and vitriol of the political process so far, this campaign has not been about the real concerns of most Americans or their fear that the country they love is in decline. This campaign has not been about serious solutions to solve such problem as one out of every seven Americans being poor.
No, this campaign has been about money. Theirs. Not ours.
Ann McFeatters has covered the White House and national politics since 1986. E-mail [email protected]