WASHINGTON – If Arizona campaign donations were ballots, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, would have the state’s primary sewed up.
With just two weeks until the Arizona primary, recent numbers from the Federal Election Commission show Arizonans gave just under $4 million to 20 Democratic and Republican presidential campaigns through the end of January.
Rubio received $716,025 of that total, well ahead of Donald Trump – who still had a commanding lead over Rubio in Arizona in a recent poll. Rubio’s fundraising in the state was trailed closely by Democratic frontrunner Hillary Rodham Clinton, who received $705,244 in donations from Arizona.
The Republican field raised just under $2.8 million, in part because of sheer numbers: 15 of the 20 candidates who reported to the FEC that they had raised money in Arizona were in the GOP.
Even though Arizona is a red state, the five Democratic candidates were still able to raise almost $1.2 million. Green Party candidate Jill Stein reported raising $3,250 in the state.
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Jason Rose, a political consultant with RoseMoserAllyn PR, a fundraiser for the Rubio campaign, says he isn’t surprised Rubio has such a following in Arizona.
“He’s just a very dynamic and exciting candidate and he’s conservative without being crazy. He fits the Arizona profile, kind of that Jon Kyl profile,” Rose said.
Mike Noble, principal owner of MBQF Consulting, also isn’t surprised.
“The movers and shakers have lined up behind Marco because he seems to be the establishment choice, he’s the one that matches up the best with Hillary Clinton, and frankly he’s been the best organized in the finance game here in Arizona,” Noble said.
Second in line on the Republican side was surgeon Ben Carson, who got $583,059 from Arizona. He officially dropped out of the race on Friday, after trailing badly in early primary states.
But, Rose wasn’t surprised by Carson’s placing second to Rubio, either.
“Ben Carson is a good person, he enjoyed strong polling numbers for much of the year and he raised a staggering sum of money from across the country, so it doesn’t surprise me at all that he would have done very, very well here,” Rose said.
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Carson was followed by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who got $526,588, billionaire developer Donald Trump’s $46,698, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who raised over $38,796.
Noble’s firm released a February poll that gave Trump a comfortable lead in the upcoming March 22 primary with 34.8 percent of the vote, Rubio at 22.7 percent, Cruz at 14.1 percent, Kasich at 7.1 percent and 21.3 percent as unsure or undecided. The poll, taken Feb. 22, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.61 percent.
Bill Scheel, a political consultant with Javelina, isn’t surprised that Rubio’s leading in Arizona fundraising, even though Trump is clearly ahead in the polls.
Scheel said even though Trump is winning the Republican nomination, he hasn’t been soliciting funds and this makes him an anomaly in this election.
“Rubio clearly has the most robust national fundraising effort and Rubio’s had a pretty good effort here in Arizona and so again, it would make sense that he would be leading,” Scheel said.
Rubio is scheduled to be in Arizona for a fundraiser March 18, just four days before the state’s primary.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, raised more than $464,243 from Arizona, coming on especially strong in January, when he brought in $140,000 for that month alone.
“Bernie Sanders just caught fire everywhere. It’s very impressive what he’s been doing because it has been so overwhelmingly done through small donations,” Scheel said.
Noble agrees that Sanders’ grass-roots approach is having an impact, adding that a $20 donation would be a big donation in Sander’s eyes.
“He’s got that populist message, it’s just been due to his message, I think his message is resonating with a lot of folks when he starts talking about minimum wage and free college tuition,” Noble said.
What of the rest of the presidential candidates? Like the Carson campaign, they were not such a good investment for Arizonans, who donated $895,157 to 13 candidates – in addition to Carson – who have since dropped drop out of the race.
“It’s a little bit like giving Christmas gift to one of your relatives – on the big day and they open it up and there’s not a lot of smile on their face. It’s disappointing,” Rose said.