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Something very peculiar happened at the Republican debate on Saturday night: When Donald Trump talked, the audience booed. Yet when Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and even John Kasich talked, they got loud cheers and applause.
This happened again and again. It even led a spike in Google searches for "Why are people booing?"
Pointing this out elicited even louder booing, to which Trump said "the reason they're not loving me is I don't want their money."
CHARLESTON, S.C. — About 1 a.m., long after the GOP presidential contenders had finally filed off the stage of the North Charleston Coliseum, the Republican National Committee’s post-debate party was still going strong.
Top party donors jammed into the ballroom of an upscale hotel in the city’s historic downtown, milling around a long buffet table piled with pulled-pork sandwiches, baby shrimp, macaroni and cheese, and ice cream sundaes. They buzzed about the sharp jousting between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, caught up on campaign gossip, and made plans to see one another at one of the upcoming forums in Iowa, New Hampshire or Florida.
The outsize spectacle of this primary season’s Republican debates has made the events hot-ticket items for wealthy donors, who are flocking to them as if they were political bowl games.
“It’s like Old Home Week,” said Ray Washburne, the national finance chair for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s campaign, who has been to all six GOP primary debates held so far. “Even though we’re all on different sides, it’s fun to meet up.”
Major fundraisers and top contributors fly in on private jets and gather in hotel suites before start time, marveling over the latest twists in the race. Once inside the venue, they snap selfies in front of the stage. They anxiously root for their favored candidates, swapping text messages with friends as the jabs fly back and forth.
“It’s the same thing as going to a football game,” said Foster Friess, the Wyoming-based financial investor who was among the heavy hitters in the audience for Thursday night’s debate in Charleston. “If you’re in the crowd, you can hear the cheers, unfiltered by microphones. The chemistry is so much more exciting.”
The crowded field of candidates — each with their own constellation of rich backers — has meant a heavier donor presence at the GOP forums than at the smaller Democratic ones, where Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) repeatedly declares his independence from millionaires and billionaires.
The regular attendance by wealthy contributors is also due in part to the control that the RNC exerted over the primary debates this cycle. The national party doles out the tickets, unlike in past years when admittance was in the hands of the television networks and local parties hosting the forums.
The RNC allocates blocks of tickets to individual campaigns, volunteers and activists. But a chunk is also set aside for top money players such as Team 100 contributors, who have given the annual maximum of $33,400 to the party, according to people familiar with the arrangements.
“Because of the historic number of talented and diverse Republican candidates running this cycle, our voters, activists and donors are excited to be part of the process that will elect the next Republican president,” said the RNC’s communications director, Sean Spicer.
The campaigns also set aside debate seats for their biggest financial backers, arranging receptions and briefings for them on debate days.
“I heard people here saying, ‘I’ve been to three, how many have you been to?’ ” said Washington lobbyist and GOP fundraiser Richard Hohlt. “There are people who are almost debate groupies.”
Read their full article about it, they talk about how billionaire Sheldon Adelson and other fabulously wealthy oil magnates and hedge-fund managers are given front row seats to the action.
As Trump doesn't want nor take any of their money, they boo the hell out of him. Meanwhile, the other nobodies like Jeb who are at single digits in the polls get wildly cheered.