Photo: Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

Having lots of money at the beginning of a presidential race — or even at the end — matters much less than it did in the past.

Be smart: President Trump probably could have won in 2016 with no money. You can’t put a price tag on free Twitter coverage, free cable coverage and all the stories flowing from both.

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Data: Federal Election Commission; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

The big picture: Huge out-of-the-gate dollar advantages for Hillary Clinton in 2008 or Jeb Bush in 2016 didn't help them over the finish line.

  • There's a long history of rich people trying and failing to win elections with money: Meg Whitman, Carly Fiorina, Linda McMahon, etc.
  • Such presidential follies go all the way back to Ross Perot in 1992, and are likely to be continued by Howard Schultz this cycle. David Koch was the Libertarian Party candidate for vice president in 1980!

The bottom line: In many ways, the money primary is not important because money is important, but rather because it helps determine which candidates are taken seriously by the media.

A bare minimum of money is necessary to staff a campaign, keep it on the road, and keep its vital functions on track — although Trump might have effectively disproved even that. Beyond that bare minimum, money tends to go in two directions: consultants and TV ads.

  • Candidates still spend the lion's share of their funds on TV ads, because that's where the boomers are, and boomers are very likely to vote. But TV ads are hard to target effectively, and they always come at a premium: Many swing-state local TV stations are happy to lose money three years in a row, just because they know that presidential election campaigns will be like money from helicopters.
  • TV ads have never been less effective in terms of persuading the electorate whom they should vote for — because the electorate has never been this polarized.

In 2020, earned (free) media will, once again, be of paramount importance. And this time, the earned media that matters will increasingly be social — especially Facebook and Instagram — rather than TV.

  • While some people are persuaded by TV, many more are persuaded by their friends and peers.

Go deeper ... 2020 presidential election: Track every candidate's Q1 fundraising totals

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What they're saying: Trump nominates Amy Coney Barrett for Supreme Court

Judge Amy Coney Barrett in the Rose Garden of the White House on Sept. 26. Photo: Oliver Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Democratic and Republican lawmakers along with other leading political figures reacted to President Trump's Saturday afternoon nomination of federal appeals court Judge Amy Coney Barrett to succeed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court.

What they're saying: "President Trump could not have made a better decision," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement. "Judge Amy Coney Barrett is an exceptionally impressive jurist and an exceedingly well-qualified nominee to the Supreme Court of the United States."

Amy Coney Barrett: "Should I be confirmed, I will be mindful of who came before me"

Trump introduces Amy Coney Barrett as nominee to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Photo: Olivier Douleiry/Getty Images

In speaking after President Trump announced her as the Supreme Court nominee to replaced Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Circuit Court Judge Amy Coney Barrett said on Saturday she will be "mindful" of those who came before her on the court if confirmed.

What she's saying: Barrett touched on Ginsburg's legacy, as well as her own judicial philosophy and family values. "I love the United States and I love the United States Constitution," she said. "I'm truly humbled at the prospect of serving on the  Supreme Court."