In the past, the Kochs have stayed out of the presidential primary process and thrown their weight in after the nominee is chosen. But not this year. This year the Kochs, possibly alarmed at the insane free market approach to the GOP nominating process, are going to place their heavily-weighted thumb on the scales of success for a few lucky guys.
Paul Waldman at the Washington Post thinks they're culling the herd:
Up until now, the Koch brothers hadn’t indicated that they’d be taking a side in the primaries. It almost seemed that they viewed that as the kind of thing amateurs like Sheldon Adelson do, throwing money at some candidate based on overly irrational personal feelings, while they keep focused on the real goal of getting a Republican — any Republican — into the White House. By saying they’re going to support several candidates in the primaries, the Kochs are pledging to accelerate the winnowing process, by which the race’s chaff can be sloughed off and the focus can stay on the serious contenders.
Don’t be fooled by the line about them supporting all the ones whose policies they’re happy with. That’s because there’s almost no disagreement among the candidates, at least on the issues the Kochs care about. All of them would like to see low taxes on the wealthy (most have even advocated a flat tax, a boon to people like the Kochs), a dramatic reduction in regulations that affect corporations and a rollback of the social safety net. Where the Kochs personally disagree with the candidates (as they may on some social issues or on immigration), they disagree with all the candidates, because the candidates’ positions are so similar.
So mark my words: If the Kochs pick out a few candidates to support, it will be the ones they think would be the strongest in a general election and those they think put the best face on the GOP.
Steve M. disagrees:
I don't think Koch funding of primary challengers is about thinning the field. I think it's about bribing the A-listers to come around to their positions, and possibly to weigh in on behalf of a favorite or two from the A list. (I'm guessing that Koch's people are mentioning obvious D-listers Perry and Jindal because they read the mainstream press, where the two are still taken seriously as contenders.)
The Kochs could help do some winnowing now if they really wanted to -- but they're waiting to give until winter and spring. They don't want to thin the herd yet. There'll be plenty of clowning between now and then.
One thing this primary is not about: Ideas. There is no daylight between the candidates and virtually no space to disagree. It is solely about who can play the media and gladhanding game best.