- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 18, 2015

If Jeb Bush’s popularity ever catches on among fellow Republicans, he’ll find his campaign team has paved a smooth path to the ballot box in primary states.

The former Florida governor, political newcomer Ben Carson and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz appear to lead the still-crowded GOP presidential field by one important measure: They’ve secured access to the greatest number of state presidential nomination ballots so far.

Having the skill, money and will to accomplish that is a sign of a campaign’s seriousness and competence in the eyes of major donors and experienced political watchers.

Atop the ballot qualification leaderboard sits Mr. Cruz, who has qualified in 24 states and territories, has filed in 13 more and plans to register soon in three more states, according to campaign spokesman Rick Tyler. That would bring Mr. Cruz’s official filings to 40 states and territories.

“Qualifying for the ballot requires an intense effort and reveals which candidates are organized and funded and which are not,” Mr. Tyler said.

The 24 secured ballot spots for Mr. Cruz are Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada, Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Minnesota, Alaska, Maine, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, North Carolina, Michigan, North Dakota, Guam, Kentucky, Kansas, Wyoming, American Samoa, Northern Marianas Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands, Arizona and Florida.

The Texas senator has filed for the ballot in Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Mississippi, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Maryland, Nebraska, Oregon, Washington, California, New Mexico and South Dakota.

The Cruz campaign said that it has more than 10,000 signatures to qualify in Virginia, one of the difficult states to qualify for the primary ballot. Heidi Cruz, the senator’s wife, will file in Richmond on Dec. 1, Mr. Tyler said. The campaign has a similar filing event planned in Texas and will file in Idaho on Friday, bringing the Cruz unofficial total to 40 states.

Not far behind is Mr. Carson, the retired pediatric neurosurgeon who has secured his name on ballots in 21 states and territories — with New Hampshire and Idaho to join the list by week’s end, campaign manager Barry Bennett said.

When Maine is added early next week, Mr. Carson will have secured ballot spots in 24 states and territories.

Already in his basket are South Carolina, the District of Columbia, the Virgin Islands, the Northern Marianas Islands, Alabama, Minnesota, Kansas, Nevada, Arkansas, Alaska, Kentucky, Michigan, Florida, Texas, Arizona, Iowa, North Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, American Samoa and Guam.

Donald Trump’s campaign is believed by many to have secured him a spot on nearly as many state primary ballots as Mr. Carson and Mr. Bush, which would make the GOP front-runner in the polls one of the five top ballot-access performers.

But Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski isn’t saying, except to say that loose lips on the subject only help Mr. Trump’s rivals. The one thing he isn’t shy about revealing is that the Trump campaign has submitted 16,000 signatures from Virginia voters, 11,000 more than the 5,000 the state’s GOP rules require. Meeting Virginia’s ballot requirements is no simple feat. Only two GOP candidates — Mitt Romney and Ron Paul — had the resources to pull together enough valid signatures to get their names on to the Virginia ballot in 2012.

A candidate not on the ballot can’t grab any of the state’s 49 delegates to the GOP nominating convention in Cleveland next summer.

Financial muscle

All but one of the top four ballot-secured candidates have campaign organizations and super PACs that are doing anywhere from well to spectacularly well financially.

Mr. Trump’s financial advantage rests not on a political action committee but rather on the billions of dollars in his bank accounts and other deep wells of wealth he has promised to use to pay the bills for his march to the White House.

All but one of the four average in the double digits in polls of GOP primary and caucus voters — far ahead of the rest of the 14-candidate field.

Mr. Bush is the only one of the top four who has been languishing in the middle single-digits polls despite rave reviews the nation’s GOP faithful gave him eight years ago for his governance of Florida.

Bush campaign spokeswoman Kristy Campbell said his organization has secured ballot access in these 22 states and is conducting access efforts or delegate recruitment in “at least” nine more states for a total of 31 states — counting Iowa.

Mr. Bush’s name, she said, is assured of being on ballots in Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, Virginia and Iowa.

The Bush campaign is also active in “at least” nine more states. Paid staff and volunteers are gathering signatures in Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Montana and Washington, D.C. A full slate of delegates in the midst of filing their ballot paperwork and signatures in Tennessee and delegate recruitment is underway in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Ohio.

 

Marco Rubio, the senator from Mr. Bush’s home state of Florida, has been gaining a bit in the 2016 polls, but his campaign isn’t willing to divulge where the candidate had qualified for the ballot or where he is seeking access.

“We don’t discuss our ballot-access strategy, but we’ll have qualified for about 20 ballots by the end of this week [and] we will be on every ballot next year,” spokesman Alex Conant wrote in an email.

The two most senior officials in the campaign of Carly Fiorina, the only woman seeking the GOP nomination, did not respond to repeated requests for her ballot-access status.

In contrast, Sergio Gor, Rand Paul’s campaign spokesman, responded with specificity.

“As of right now, we are ballot-qualified in seven states,” Mr. Gor said. “South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire and Florida. Additionally, we intend to be on every ballot across the nation, and are actively working to make it happen.”

Mr. Gor added that the “deadline for Virginia is not until Dec. 10, and we expect to meet all necessary requirements to appear on that ballot.”

There is still time for the other candidates to meet petition-filing deadlines in the states that require candidates to prove they deserve ballot access. But the campaign organizations that achieve that early get to preen for discerning voters and for those donors who have yet to take out their checkbooks — or are looking to move to another, more promising candidate.


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