The Last Gasps of Campaign Public Financing

Posted: October 20, 2008 in 2008 Elections, Barack Obama, John McCain
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Patrick Ruffini:

First, public finance in the general election is dead, dead, dead. Any nominee from now on can safely opt out because the Internet makes it for the public to massively participate. If we had not had a nominee with such misguided instincts on campaign finance reform, Republicans probably would have figured this out this time. McCain raised $47 million in August, or 71% of Obama’s total, and he raised $10 million in 2 days because of Sarah Palin. Had this trend continued into September, McCain would have raised over $100 million for the month. By the time the McCain campaign figured out it was possible to excite the base, it was too late.

This is true, because Obama has unleashed the full potential of a small Internet-based donor operation that (ironically) was first pioneered by John McCain back in 2000 and later on in a much more dramatic way by Howard Dean in 2004. This essentially narrows the playing field for presidential candidates. You either have to be able to connect with voters in a way that they will give money and time an deffort, come hell or high water (i.e. Dean and Obama), or you have to be ridiculously wealthy enough that you can substantially finance your own campaign (i.e. Mitt Romney and Ross Perot).

And Ruffini smartly asks the next question. How do you spend $150 million?

Second, what does Obama do with the extra money? A three-to-one ad ratio in a given state is worth about a point in the polls. But that’s in states with at least a decent baseline of Republican advertising. What’s it worth in states where McCain can’t advertise at all, like North Dakota or Georgia? 3 or 4 points? Does Obama move into states at the fringes of the target map to 1) heighten the sense of panic in the GOP? and 2) go for 400 EVs? Can he legally bail out the committees to go for 270 in the House and 60 in the Senate?

Either way, this is going to be the political equivalent of Sherman’s March.


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