As Republicans and Democrats prepare for their national nominating conventions next month, it’s clear that this has become one of the strangest — and most entertaining — presidential campaigns since at least 1912.
That was the year Theodore Roosevelt ran as a third-party candidate and survived an assassination attempt to push the incumbent president, Republican William Howard Taft, into third place. Democrat Woodrow Wilson ended up as the winner.
This year’s campaign is so weird that the experts are even predicting the possibility that Georgia’s electoral votes could go to Democrat Hillary Clinton instead of Republican Donald Trump.
Here’s how Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia described it in his national forecast: “Georgia has a significant and deeply Democratic bloc of African-American voters, as well as a growing, educated, white-collar professional class that might be turned off by Trump.”
Although Sabato doesn’t mention it, Georgia also has a growing number of Latino citizens who are registering to vote this year, inspired in large part by the concern that a President Trump would cause massive problems for both legal residents and undocumented immigrants of Hispanic descent.
Trump had some more surprises for the experts last week. He shocked the political world when it was reported that his presidential campaign had just $1.3 million cash in its bank account.
Trump was way behind Clinton, whose campaign had $42 million in the bank, and the funding disparity set off alarm bells on both sides of the partisan aisle.
“These numbers are so disastrous that they mean it would be nothing less than malpractice for Republican delegates not to consider seriously the possibility of ditching Trump at the convention,” said conservative pundit John Podhoretz.
Trump’s campaign stash is so low for a presidential candidate that at least three elected officials from Georgia have exceeded it.
Sen. Johnny Isakson, who’s in the middle of a re-election campaign against Democrat Jim Barksdale, had $5.57 million cash on hand, according to the Federal Election Commission records. That is more than four times the amount of the Trump campaign.
Rep. Tom Price, R-Roswell, who has token Democratic opposition from Rodney Stooksbury, had $2.52 million cash on hand in his latest campaign report, nearly twice the amount of the Trump campaign.
Trump’s campaign cash was even exceeded by the haul of at least one state legislator: Sen. David Shafer, R-Duluth, the president pro tem of the Georgia Senate.
Shafer still has contributions on deposit that he accepted during a brief campaign six years ago for lieutenant governor, a race that Shafer abandoned when Casey Cagle decided to run for another term.
Shafer’s leftover funds from the aborted lieutenant governor’s race total $142,634. Shafer also has a cash balance of $1,258,112 in his legislative campaign fund; he has no opposition this year as he runs for an eighth term in the state Senate.
Add up those two campaign accounts and Shafer has combined funds of $1,400,746, which means he was sitting on a bigger pile of campaign cash than Trump.
Trump temporarily shut down his presidential campaign last week to fly to Scotland and promote one of his luxury golf courses, Trump Turnberry.
He was criticized for dropping out of his campaign, however briefly, but it turned out to be one of those crazy accidents of timing. Trump was on the ground in Scotland just in time for the shocking news that a majority of Great Britain’s residents had voted to leave the European Union.
As the British pound plummeted and financial markets crashed around the globe, Trump cut quickly to the chase: “If the pound goes down, more people are coming to Turnberry, frankly,” he said. “For traveling and for other things, I think it very well could turn out to be positive.”
When a reporter pointed out that “the country is not a golf course,” Trump’s response was “no, it’s not, but you’d be amazed how similar it is.”
Who knows? Maybe the British vote and the resulting financial instability will bring in more money for Trump’s campaign bank account.
That would put him ahead, once more, of Shafer and give him the money to keep going in this strangest of election years.
Tom Crawford is editor of The Georgia Report.