Republicans have other options.

Photographer: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

No, It's Not Just Christie-Bush-Romney

Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg View columnist. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.
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Republican donors,  the New York Times reports today, are trying to narrow the Republican presidential field to a single “establishment” candidate  --  Chris Christie, Jeb Bush or Mitt Romney – who would then presumably beat other party candidates and win the nomination.

This analysis, by Nicholas Confessore,  is helpful. Alas, it isn't too helpful.

On one level, we know donors and other party actors (campaign professionals,  office holders and the like) want to settle on a single consensus candidate. That's just to say the party wants to act like a party, rather than leaving things up to the otherwise unpredictable results of primaries and caucuses.

What may be news is which party actors want to support which particular candidates. In this case, it’s “dozens of the Republican Party’s leading presidential donors and fund-raisers” who apparently are choosing from among Christie, Bush and Romney.

Confessore contrasts this “establishment” group with Tea Party alternatives. It isn't clear where this leaves other candidates -- Marco Rubio, John Kasich, Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, Paul Ryan,  Mike Pence -- whose apparent support isn’t thought to be confined to Tea Partyers.  Are they all frozen out, with Republican donors already settled on one of Christie/Bush/Romney? Or are the donors in the article only a subset of conservative mainstream Republican party actors, leaving plenty of room for the others to jostle?

The nature of the “invisible” primary is that it’s hard to have a solid fix on what’s going on. This is good reporting that still leaves a lot of unknowns.

For example, is this a smallish group (even if it commands many millions of dollars) trying to unite overlapping supporters of one set of candidates? If so, the candidate will be one of several serious contenders for the nomination. Or is this a group that encompasses most of the party outside of Tea Party identifiers? In that case, if it settles on one candidate then the race will be effectively over, no matter how much Tea Partyers (and the Rand Paul faction) protest?

Donors are important, but others are important, too: party officials and staff, politicians, campaign and government professionals, activists, and party-aligned media and interest groups. Some of those party actors might be represented by big donors and fundraisers, but some won't be.

Money matters, but it’s easy to take it too seriously. 

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the author on this story:
Jonathan Bernstein at jbernstein62@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor on this story:
Katy Roberts at kroberts29@bloomberg.net