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The Key Lesson from Jeb Bush's Failed Campaign: You Still Can't Buy Elections

by David Yee, published

With Jeb Bush's dismal finish in South Carolina comes his long overdue exit from the 2016 Republican primary contest for the presidency.

While this was expected, and possibly even encouraged by the establishment to weed down candidates for Super Tuesday, there is a greater significance to Jeb's departure: you still can't buy elections in the United States.

The Citizens United SCOTUS ruling has been used as a warning -- a warning against plutocrats and the ability of the super-wealthy to outright buy elections.

But the flip side to this is seeing a well-funded, well-connected politician's campaign crash and burn for an inability to connect with the voters.

Jeb's campaign war chest was amazing, outspending most of his opponents many times over -- spending upwards of $53 million in his own campaign and official super PAC. Other analysis has driven this number much higher, with some even estimating over $100 million spent on Jeb's failed campaign.

Even at $53 million, for only three contests leading up to the failure, this represents an obscene amount of money and resources.

If there ever were a political boogeyman seen in Citizens United, spending this much money on trying to sway public opinion would be its calling card. But this boogeyman isn't very scary.

While the better funded campaign wins 91% of the time, according to the Washington Post, Jeb's failure to advance is a clear-cut example that money can't buy everything in politics -- especially votes.

The Democrats are not immune to this phenomenon as well. Bernie Sanders has out-fundraised Hillary Clinton by over 3 to 1 so far in 2016, yet Hillary still maintains a small edge in pledged delegates and an enormous lead in superdelegates.

So while we can still hate the principles of the Citizens United ruling, we can take comfort in the reality we are still seeing in America today: money helps in elections, but you still can't outright buy one.

Photo Credit: Rich Koele /

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