Special: Campaign 2016's biggest spender, previewing the Democratic National Convention & Donald Trump's general election campaign

Apr. 29, 2016 AT 9:43 p.m. EDT

Who has spent the most money in the 2016 election? A large number of small donations have helped to push this candidate forward, explains CNN's Jeff Zeleny. Is Hillary Clinton a better officer-holder or candidate? Indira Lakshmanan wrote about covering Clinton as candidate vs. at the State Department. The Associated Press' Lisa Lerer explains what this year's Democratic National Convention might look like with Clinton as the nominee. And, Jennifer Jacobs of Bloomberg Politics explains how Donald Trump will fund his general election campaign.

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Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.

ANNOUNCER : This is the Washington Week Webcast Extra .

MR. DICKERSON : I’m John Dickerson, in for Gwen, and I’m joined around the table by Indira Lakshmanan of POLITICO Magazine, Jennifer Jacobs of Bloomberg Politics, Lisa Lerer of the Associated Press, and Jeff Zeleny of CNN.

So, Jeff, taking a deep look into the campaign spending so far, what did we learn?

MR. ZELENY : One thing we learned, courtesy of our friends at The Washington Post this week, was that Bernie Sanders of all people has spent the most money of any candidate on ads and other things: $166 million. Now, Bernie Sanders has made a lot of hay over the fact that he does not collect big checks, his average donation is $27, all of which is true. So that is a lot of $27 average contributions that are paying for his ads.

And he had also some news this week that he was laying off staff members. That’s one of the things that we sort of never have a firm handle on, is how many people are actually working for these campaigns, because there volunteers and other things. I was surprised to learn that at some point he had a thousand people working for him, and now it’s back down to around 300 or so. They really started to have a robust staff, a robust presence on TV, outspending the Clinton campaign after Iowa and New Hampshire. The money started pouring in, and they started spending it.

Well, an interesting detail in this story in The Washington Post that, you know, was just looking at spending reports through March – so it’s more than that now – is that $91 million of that went to ad makers and ad buyers and other things. Now, that sounds like an eye-popping number. It is. It’s not that people are lining their pockets with all of this. It costs money to make ads and put them on television. But that is a lot of money. And the – it was eye-popping, I’m told, to people in Burlington Vermont, to the Sanders specifically. And it’s not something that the Sanders campaign ever anticipated that they would have this much money to play with.

The Clinton campaign followed the Obama playbook of – from ’08 and ’12 – of putting spending limits and caps on their outside advisers and consultants so they would not sort of profit so richly from this. The Sanders campaign never anticipated being able to raise this much money, and that’s what has happened.

MR. DICKERSON : And it’s a little counterintuitive for a movement campaign to have so many professionals and have so many ads. It’s kind of got both.

MR. ZELENY : And his ads were great. His ads, I think, were some of the best of the cycle, in fact the best of the cycle, I think, like in many respects. But, you know, it’s expensive.

MS. JACOBS : The Simon and Garfunkel ad, classic.

MR. ZELENY : Sure.


Indira, let me ask you about the piece that you wrote about Hillary Clinton. You talked about her time as secretary of state and her time as a candidate. She does not enjoy campaigning, as she has said. So she’s probably wanting to win, if for no other reason that it would get her back into the mode of operation that she does enjoy. What would being president be like for her, based on what life was like as secretary of state?

MS. LAKSHMANAN : You’re absolutely right when you say back to what she enjoys. And it’s so evident in her. Her whole demeanor changed. I mean, I describe in the article how, having covered her for an entire year – 2007 to 2008 – and then my boss transferred me off the politics beat and said now you’re going to be the secretary of state, you know, reporter. And I thought, oh my gosh, more of that? Because it wasn’t very pleasant covering the Clinton campaign in 2008, I can tell you. It was hard because there was a real distrust of the press. She was not comfortable on the trail. From the very first moment she walked to the back of the plane on her first trip as secretary of state, it was like Invasion of the Body Snatchers . It was a totally different person. She was warm. She was relaxed. She was comfortable. She was welcoming everybody. She was like, this is what we’re going to be doing on this trip to these cities. She had clearly inhaled her briefing book, had learned every point in every city we were going to. And, you know, she seemed to comfortable carrying Barack Obama’s message overseas. And I realized over the course of the next four years she’s right when she says I’m much better when I actually have a job to do than when I’m fighting to get that job. She’s sort of – as I said, she becomes comfortable in her skin. She gets to be a policymaker. She’s not just a wonk, but she actually gets to do the stuff that she – is the whole reason she got into politics.

In the State Department, I was told over those four years that the professionals who were there – the Foreign Service professionals – said that she managed the department very well; that they had a feeling that, you know, everything was sort of being taken care of, that she did have a sort of management sense that not all the other secretaries of state have had. And she had certain priorities, like women’s empowerment, that – I’m not saying that John Kerry doesn’t care about women’s empowerment; I’m sure he does. But he hasn’t championed it personally in the same way that Hillary Clinton did.

MR. DICKERSON : Lisa, one of the things we didn’t talk about on the show in terms of this pivot to the general election for Hillary Clinton is that they are planning already for – well, for vice presidents, but also for a convention. So tell us a little bit about what the Clinton convention might look like if she’s the nominee, which it looks like she might be?

MS. LERER : Well, so, as Jeff mentioned in our show this week, she spent a couple days at home in New York. And part of what she was doing there was thinking about the convention, thinking about the vice presidential pick. We’re at the very early stages. We know it’s going to be in Philadelphia.

One problem that they’re starting to grapple with is there’s an awful lot of high-profile speakers on the Democratic side to be fit into that primo 10 to 11:00 hour. So you have, of course, the president; the vice president; Hillary Clinton; her vice president, whoever that is; former President Bill Clinton; Michelle Obama, who has a strong following; and perhaps Bernie Sanders. So how do you –

MR. DICKERSON : And let’s throw in a little Chelsea Clinton, too. You got – right?

MS. LERER : Chelsea Clinton, right.

MR. DICKERSON : Maybe the grandchild.

MS. LERER : The whole family. The baby, baby Charlotte, you know. So you have that – everyone, you want to get those prime speakers in that last hour, really in the last part of that hour because the gold standard for these convention planners is that it bleeds over into the top of the local news at 11 and, you know, these local news watchers see their primo speaker addressing them. So that’s a lot of people with – who are prominent Democratic surrogates, also who want their time in that hour. So they’re still grappling with that.

They’re trying to figure out how best to use the city. They’re looking to Obama’s rally in 2008 in the Mile High Stadium in Denver, which is a really iconic moment in that campaign, as something maybe they could try to replicate, and Independence Hall, yeah.

MR. DICKERSON : Right, although it was an iconic moment because it had an iconic candidate –

MS. LERER : (Laughs.) What are you saying? What are you saying?

MR. DICKERSON : Which is the slight, perhaps, difference, yeah.

MS. LERER : And then, on the VP front, you know, they’re – there’s a lot of names out there. We all in Washington love a good VP stakes. There’s at least two dozen names that are being vetted and floated around Washington. That’ll be culled down to a smaller list is what we were told this week. And, you know, there’s sort of an internal debate that’s sort of interesting between the people around the Clintons about whether you want someone who can bolster you in the Rust Belt, someone who can maybe win back those – a real liberal that could win back those Bernie Sanders supporters and maybe cut into some of the people who might leave for Trump. Or, you know, she really won with a lot of help from minority voters; do you want to recognize and respect that contribution and that support with another historic first? You know, that’s something they’ll have to figure out, and I’m sure there will be a lot of debate and something we’ll be speculating on an awful lot over the next six weeks.

MR. DICKERSON : Yeah. Yeah, and there might even be somebody at this table on the shortlist for VP, you never know. (Laughter.)

MS. LERER : I know, just about everyone in Washington is on that list these days.

MR. DICKERSON : Exactly.

Jennifer, Donald Trump, when he moves to the general election, is going to have a problem, which is he’s going to need a lot of money. And he has campaigned relentlessly on this idea that he’s self-funded, which isn’t quite true.

MS. JACOBS : Not quite.

MR. DICKERSON : Not true. But he’s really – he really can’t be self-funded for the general because it costs so much more money. So how’s he going to do it? And also, he’s made a second pledge which is sort of he’s not going to let people – sort of these influence-peddlers, these ones who’ve messed everything up, lobbyists, even though he now has a campaign manager who was a lobbyist – how’s he going to do that, fund the campaign and also keep out all the people who’ve rigged the system that he is so upset with?

MS. JACOBS : Right, that’s the big, fascinating question we all want to know: What is he going to do? So Mitt Romney raised about – just over a billion dollars. But of that, about 250 million (dollars) was the fundraising costs. So if Donald Trump were to give money to his own campaign, he perhaps wouldn’t have to do a full billion dollars. Maybe it’s only 800 million (dollars). But he has so many people who are, you know, the small donors, like we were talking about with Bernie Sanders. He could foster some of those Facebook followers and Twitter followers into giving him smaller donations where, you know, maybe he could get away with saying, you know, I’m not dealing with the big donors. And who knows if the big donors would even write him a check, right? Who knows if even the most talented fundraising, you know, operatives in the GOP would be willing to help him raise money? So there’s a whole bunch of questions.

MR. DICKERSON : Yeah, all right. Well, thanks, all of you. We’ve got lots of questions in the future, good. We’ll all be back. Thanks for that added bit of analysis.

Now, be sure to check out our Washington Week-ly Quiz and test your knowledge of the week’s events. That’s at PBS.org/WashingtonWeek.

I’m John Dickerson. Be sure to join us on the next Washington Week Webcast Extra .


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