Romney donors prefer governors. Photographer: Peter Foley/Bloomberg
Romney donors prefer governors. Photographer: Peter Foley/Bloomberg

Excellent reporting today on the invisible primary from the Washington Post’s Wesley Lowery, who talks to Mitt Romney’s 2012 donors (via Sides).

The answer: they really like former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. After that, they like pretty much any successful governor. Their biggest concern is finding someone who will win in November. They really don’t like Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.

Lowery has done good work that's a lot more informative than the endless speculation about mostly meaningless polls.

That said, I’d sure like to see the analysis go a bit deeper. As Lowery mentions, this isn’t exactly a monolithic group. Some Romney donors probably really were seriously dedicated to their candidate. Yet most of them, as Lowery reports, aren’t “Romney people” at all; they’re just regular Republican party actors who settled on the former Massachusetts governor in 2012. These are the people who should interest us most.

Yes, money is an important resource and therefore it’s interesting to know who has the capacity for raising it, but what’s even more important at this stage is insight into what various groups of party actors are saying. In that sense, all campaign dollars aren’t equal: Donors with deeper ties to the party network provide a better indication of what’s going on. So I’m especially interested in knowing who those important party actors are backing; I don’t care as much about pure Romney loyalists.

As I’ve said before, the invisible primary is called that for a reason; there are no clear, easy-to-read markers. Both parties are at least somewhat non-hierarchical and at least somewhat permeable, so it’s not as if reporters can just go to an organization to find the folks at the top and ask them who they will support. The nomination process involves thousands and thousands of people, in Washington and across the nation, who are competing and coordinating. Some of those people have a lot more influence and control more valuable resources, and that influence shifts over time in unpredictable ways.

In other words, this is an extremely difficult reporting job. So kudos to Lowery and others who are working it. It sure beats parsing meaningless polls, or playing “will she or won’t she?” speculation games.

To contact the writer of this article: Jbernstein62@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this article: Max Berley at mberley@bloomberg.net.