Hillary Clinton has not declared her candidacy for 2016.
That, of course, has not stopped Priorities USA Action – the largest liberal SuperPAC – from fundraising for her campaign.
If you are shocked, don’t be.
“We’ve had a permanent campaign for many, many years. Really, decades,” says Larry Sabato, professor of politics at the University of Virginia.
But even if fundraising isn’t happening any earlier, there is more pressure to get organized sooner. In part, that’s because outside groups or ambitious billionaires can throw money into a race at any time.
Bob Biersack, senior fellow at the Center for Responsive Politics, says you basically have to have your guard up. “In a world where one or two people can decide they really want this [or that] person to be the next president, and they’re going to invest tens of millions behind that effort, and that can come at any time, you can’t afford to wait,” he says.
What about the amount of money that’ll be spent in 2016? Candidates in 2008 spent $1.7 billion, in 2012 they spent just over $2 billion. Sabato say there are a few things that may push 2016 to break a new record.
“With every additional cycle you have new technologies that have to be funded,” Sabato says. For example, Obama pioneered voter data mining and tracking technology in ’08 and ’12, now every candidate will feel they need that.
But, Sabato says, “they don’t do away with the television advertising, they still have all of that and the radio advertising and the direct mail and the polling and everything else they do.”
Still, there is a limit to how much campaign spending can grow, and Steve Ansolabehere, professor of government at Harvard, thinks we’re reaching it. “In general, over the long stretch of American history, the amount of money that goes into campaigns tracks with the amount of money in society, the real GDP.”
So the $3 billion presidential race may be a ways off.