It's really happening. Trump might win. That realization, which is finally beginning to settle in, has left Republican insiders scrambling to organize an anti-Trump operation which has so far fallen flat. In Florida, where the establishment vowed to shut Trump down, ad buys proved largely ineffective, and saw Trump winning 66 out of the state's 67 counties. The state's junior US Senator Marco Rubio dropped out a few hours later, leaving the conservative establishment gasping for air and searching for a path forward.
Some have rallied behind Governor John Kasich, who showed signs of momentum following a home-state win in Ohio. Others have reluctantly lined up behind Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who has long been a scourge of leaders in the GOP establishment. But recently, attention has shifted to someone not even currently running for President - Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Most insiders point to him as a likely nominee in a brokered convention scenario and the one most capable of uniting all factions of the Republican Party. But what does the data have to say?
Despite receiving the GOP nomination for Vice President in 2012, Ryan's fundraising for his 2016 Congressional reelection shows he already has the support of many of the biggest conservative donors this cycle. From hedge fund CEOs like Ken Griffin, Julian Robertson, Samuel Zell and Carl Icahn, to wealthy industrialists and businesswomen like Diane Hendricks and Marlene Ricketts.
The list is a who's-who of powerful conservative donors, who have largely backed establishment candidates in 2016. Diane Hendricks seems very keen on seeing a fellow Wisconsinite in the White House, after $9M in contributions to former candidate Scott Walker. Her $240,000 given to Ryan's campaign could also signal her support for a potential presidential bid. Others have rallied behind Rubio and Bush, and also set aside some funds for Trump-bashing. Here's the full list of 2016 presidential candidates who have received the most money from the same pool of donors who are backing Ryan.
In 2016 we've learned that there are limits to what Super PACs overflowing with money can accomplish. As Jeb Bush and Scott Walker have demonstrated, candidates and PACs can spend inordinate amounts of money on ads and have little or nothing to show for it. But these figures are about more than just Ryan's fundraising potential. They show that he has the ability to enter the race unsullied by the mudslinging in the primaries and rally the conservative establishment, who likely would, for the first time in 2016, breathe a sigh of relief.