Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Money in the Presidential Primaries
Howard Dean announced today that he's suspending his campaign for the presidency. This marks the first time since good data became available in 1976 that the candidate who had raised the most money in the year before the primary didn't win his party's nomination. (John Connelly spent more than Reagan in 1980, but he did so with personal wealth. Reagan had raised more from donors.)

Some will surely jump to the conclusion that this proves that money doesn't buy elections. USA Today is running a story with the headline "Primaries show money isn't the deciding factor." Having the most money isn't always the determining factor, but its still the case that not having enough money guarantees failure. Consider:

1) Does anyone honestly think that John Kerry would still be in this race were it not for the $6 million dollars he loaned his campaign after mortgaging his house last December? How many of the rest of us could do that?

2) Other money has been flowing Kerry's way after his significant wins and momentum in early states. But, can anyone predict what the race would look like even at this point if both John Edwards and John Kerry had equal money to spend in remaining states?

3) Does anyone know if Dean would still be in the race today had he not wasted so much money early on? If Dean had abided by the voluntary spending limits, would he have been able to afford the negative ads in Iowa that backfired and may have been why he lost? Just because Dean spent his money foolishly doesn't mean that money can't buy elections, just that it didn't this time around.

Money in politics is a little like money in the stock market. You may not get rich by investing and there's always the chance you'll blow it all. But, the more money you have to invest, the better the odds you'll walk away a winner. And, for most of us who don't have much money to invest, there's little chance we'll win anything.

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