So in the middle of the GOP New Hampshire debate, the nominal subject was eminent domain. The back and forth was between Donald Trump and Jeb Bush.
Exasperated at Bush’s attack, Trump said to Bush: “Let me talk — quiet.” Boos arose from the audience, which instantly led Trump to look into the TV cameras at the audience watching at home and say this:
TRUMP:… that’s all of his (Bush’s) donors and special interests out there.
TRUMP: So — it’s what it is. That’s what — and by the way, let me just tell you, we needed tickets. You can’t get them. You know who has the tickets for the — I’m talking about, to the television audience? Donors, special interests, the people that are putting up the money.
That’s who it is. The RNC told us. We have all donors in the audience. And the reason they’re not loving me…
… the reason they’re not — excuse me. The reason they’re not loving me is, I don’t want their money. I’m going to do the right thing for the American public. I don’t want their money. I don’t need their money. And I’m the only one up here that can say that.
Note the line: “….and by the way, let me just tell you, we needed tickets. You can’t get them. You know who has the tickets for the — I’m talking about, to the television audience? Donors, special interests, the people that are putting up the money.”
After the debate I contacted the Trump campaign to see exactly how many tickets the campaign was given for an audience that appeared to be several hundred people. Answer? 20. You read that right — 20 tickets. Over at Breitbart, Alex Swoyer reported this:
Trump made the same charge during a campaign rally Sunday afternoon at Plymouth State University.
“The room was loaded up… all the rich donors and special interests and the lobbyists got all the tickets,” Trump told the supporters at his rally. He personally knows most of the big, wealthy donors because he was one of them in the past, he said, adding that angry faces were looking at him, thinking, “How could you do this to us?”
A source from the RNC told Breitbart News that 75 attendees were RNC donors. The various candidates, the state party, plus St. Anselm, ABC, IJ Review, WMUR and Google all got ticket allocations for the 1,000-person room.
Trump said the donors should have donated money to veterans instead of sending their cash to Bush’s campaign.
Trump used the drug companies as an example of special interests in politics. He said the head of Johnson & Johnson is one of Bush’s top fundraisers.
“I blame the RNC for this,” Trump said about filling audience with donors. “I’m the one that brought all the action,” he added, referencing that he only receives 20 tickets to give to people for the debates.
“I’m a self-funder. I’m putting up my own money,” he reminded his supporters. “I’m $40 million maybe $50 million under budget, isn’t that nice?”
“You’re my friends,” not the donors, he told his audience. “Self-funding is a big deal.”
While the headlines, most of them at any rate, went to Rubio’s performance problem in the debate, this seemingly small moment that revolves around those 20 Trump tickets versus 75 for RNC is emblematic of exactly why Trump and Senator Ted Cruz have become the one-two punch against the GOP Establishment, why they are so popular with the base — and it is illustrative of exactly what has gone haywire with the culture that has produced what Cruz calls the Washington Cartel.
As a piece of theater designed to make a point vividly, the moment was telling. There was the literal donor crowd shouting down a self-funded candidate because they know — they know — that Trump means exactly what he says. Whether the issue is health care or energy or abortion or whatever, Trump will not be some guy on a leash waiting for the donors to tug.
This point takes on serious relevance when one goes back to last year as the campaign was barely beginning and stories like this one in the New York Times surfaced. The headline:
Jeb Bush Returns to the Washington Fund-Raising Well
The story read in part:
WASHINGTON — “I’m not an expert on the ways of Washington,” Jeb Bush told conservatives last month when he was asked about a funding dispute in Congress.
Mr. Bush, the former Florida governor, has sounded that theme regularly in his fledgling presidential campaign. But even as he positions himself as a Washington outsider, he seems to have mastered a skill that is crucial in this city: tapping into the money-raising clout of the K Street lobbyists, political operatives, superlawyers and business leaders in Washington’s permanent class.
Although not yet an official presidential candidate, Mr. Bush has had at least seven private fund-raisers and meet-and-greets in the Washington area, raising more than $1.3 million for his political action committee in a single day last month, and he has scheduled another one in April. His success is hardly surprising: For more than two decades, Washington has provided Mr. Bush, the son and brother of former presidents, with financial and political support.
“Washington is a deep well for Jeb. There’s a lot of support for him here,” said Tony Fratto, a Washington consultant who worked at the White House under George W. Bush, Mr. Bush’s brother, and pitched in $5,000 for a Bush fund-raiser last month.
In his two successful runs for the Florida Statehouse, in 1998 and 2002, Mr. Bush received at least $237,000 from hundreds of lobbyists, lawyers, political consultants and others in the capital, records show. Many donors had ties to his father and his brother or to special interests like tobacco, oil, Hollywood and Wall Street.
Now he is far outpacing potential Republican rivals who have largely been absent from the capital’s chicken-and-chardonnay fund-raising scene.
To borrow from Chris Christie’s attack on Marco Rubio — “and there it is.” Right there in that Times story is exactly what the GOP base is in open rebellion against. A collection of self-appointed insiders feeding out of the Big Government trough and who have no intention — zero — to shut it down because they benefit from it big time. So their objective is to control the GOP, the Democrats and whomever is in the White House or this or that Senate or House seat.
And Jeb Bush played exactly to this crowd and their role in running what the Times called the “Washington fundraising well.” They are part and parcel of the donor crowd — and 75 of the donor crowd were well-ticketed for the New Hampshire debate and thus well positioned to overwhelm those 20 ticketed Trump supporters.
Trump — loudly booed by the donors in the audience (and he could see them from the stage) — knew exactly what was going on with Jeb and his insider friends and he called them out.
Last night CNN and WMUR released their latest tracking poll, with Trump at 31%, Rubio at 17% and Cruz at 14%. Which is to say the anti-donor class candidates Trump and Cruz between them had 45% of the vote.
There is a reason. And the watching television audience got a glimpse of that reason Saturday night when donor class quite openly booed The Donald — who had a meager 20 tickets handed to his campaign.
And the Establishment wonders why it is so unpopular?