The hot news in the burgeoning Missouri governor’s race this week had to do with big money and Eric Greitens.
The still-unannounced candidate picked up $500,000 from a California venture capitalist and $200,000 more from a Michigan real estate investor.
The score gave Greitens, a former Navy SEAL, a spate of headlines and probably vaulted him to the top of the GOP fundraising heap.
These days, any attention is probably good for Greitens, who’s very much the outsider having never held public office — just like Donald Trump — and remains largely unknown. What did Bob Dole once say about media attention? “Just as long as they spell my name right.”
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But Greitens’ coup was also a victory for another contender, former House speaker Catherine Hanaway. She’s taken heavy artillery for her own decision to accept big money from Rex Sinquefield, the GOP benefactor who’s donated at least $1 million to Hanaway.
The mega-donations to Greitens moves the spotlight from Hanaway for taking so much dough from a single source.
On Friday, the Missouri Ethics Commission reported that in the first four days of September, 20 campaign donations of more than $5,000 had already flowed into the state, including five of $25,000 or more.
Missouri abolished campaign limits in 2008, and since then the number of five-figure donations continues to climb. In the first eight months of 2011, for instance, the year before the last governor’s race, 362 donations of $10,000 or more were recorded. This year, it’s 480.
Greitens now has enough money to introduce himself to Missouri voters via 30-second TV ads, and he should soon have enough to go negative on his opponents.
His money blitz is placing enormous pressure on two other Republican candidates who must hustle to keep up. One is St. Louis businessman John Brunner, who’s been saying for months that he’s getting in.
Brunner is now looking at a campaign budget that’s probably grown by hundreds of thousands from what he once anticipated. There was a time when he might have locked up this nomination. That time has passed.
That leaves Peter Kinder, the three-term lieutenant governor who’s surely realizing that he can no longer claim the GOP nomination based on name ID alone. Fundraising is not a Kinder strength.
Money, money, money. It changes everything, doesn’t it?