A Cheesehead follow up

Yesterday’s post on How much does it cost to buy a Cheesehead, drew the following response:

By your logic, then Obama bought the 2008 elections by outspending McCain?

Well, yeah. That’s the whole point.

It doesn’t matter what the candidates say. It doesn’t matter what the issues are. It doesn’t matter if voters despise a candidate on one side or the other on the political spectrum. Here’s reality: If 40% of the population hate one candidate, and 40% hate the other candidate, the remaining 20% of the population will decide the winner. So, in a general election, if one candidate has twice as much money as the other, the odds are with the one with the most money.

That’s where we’re going in the 2008 presidential election. May the best candidate be bought. If you want your side to win, your side better have the cash.

There’s a reason President Obama had fundraisers recently with Wall Street bigwigs. And there’s a reason why Wall Street types should be willing to contribute. While the rest of us saw our salaries decrease, the financial houses saw stocks hit record levels. And to top it off, they got government bailouts even though they threw us into near depression, or what we now seem to be experiencing, a never ending recession. The bailouts started with George W. Bush, but Obama didn’t do enough to push through tough financial regulations to prevent Wall Street abuses from happening again. All he did was say a few words that hurt brokers’ and bankers’ feelings (“They need to pay their fair share”), so he had to go repentantly to them for a handout. Because they have the money.

But let’s go back to the 2008 election. Here are the breakdowns in campaign funding:

John McCain

legend Individual contributions $199,275,171 54%
legend PAC contributions $1,407,959 0%
legend Candidate self-financing $0 0%
legend Federal Funds $84,103,800 23%
legend Other $83,306,833 23%

Barack Obama

legend Individual contributions $656,357,572 88%
legend PAC contributions $1,830 0%
legend Candidate self-financing $0 0%
legend Federal Funds $0 0%
legend Other $88,626,223 12%

Now, when you add all the numbers up, John McCain raised $368,093,763. Barack Obama raised $744,985,265. So how did that disparity happen?

Simple. John McCain ran a bad campaign.

Let’s ignore the selection of Sarah Palin as vice president. Or the fact that McCain embarrassed himself with the mavericky move of saying he was going to suspend his campaign while the 2008 financial crisis was being worked out. Or the fact that McCain didn’t have a suggestion for dealing with the 2008 financial crisis when he and Obama and the bankers and the government officials were gathered to figure out what steps to take, while Obama was offering recommendations. Or the fact that McCain wasn’t offering anything new to the American people other than what the lame duck incumbent had offered for the previous eight years.

McCain didn’t have money to compete because:

[Since] McCain opted into the public financing system during the general election, he faced an $84 million limit on what he could spend, putting him at a huge disadvantage compared to Obama, who raised $66 million more than that in September alone. Although McCain lost the race, he came a long way from the early days of the campaign, when he appeared to be nearly broke.

Look at the line for federal funds: McCain ($84,103,800). Obama ($0)

While you’re at it, look at the lines for PAC contributions. McCain raised more than 750 times the PAC money that Obama did. This is why the Citizens United ruling, made by GOP-appointed justices, matters.

When you take the total amount of money raised and the total number of votes received in 2008, Obama got 69,494,428 votes, which averages out to $15.05 per vote; McCain got 59,950,323 votes, or $6.14 per vote. A big disparity, but nothing approaching Scott Walker’s $35.22 compared with Tom Barrett’s $16.34. Obama’s per vote cost was less than Barrett’s.

Obama had a 2.45 to 1 ratio against McCain. Walker had a 2.16 to 1 ratio against Barrett. But there’s almost a $20 per vote advantage for Walker over his opponent compared with a $9 advantage for Obama.

Obviously, Obama and Mitt Romney are going to opt out of the public financing system. McCain showed how stupid it was to limit the amount of money you can get to campaign. And Romney has the advantage here, as we’ve seen from May fundraising. Conservative and corporate investors will shell out the big bucks to get a guy in the White House who knows how to reduce a payroll and return huge dividends. The rich will get more and the rest of us will see our paychecks continue to shrink. And we are already seeing what the influence of PAC money is going to be in this election.

If the candidates spend an equal amount of money by Election Day, then what will matter is how they used the money in their television campaigns. More cash for corporations. More pundocracy from TV talking heads — who’ll tell us why the middle class voted for whomever they’re going to select — pulling down salaries in the high-six or low-seven figure range. Always great to hear the 1% explaining the actions of the 99%.

And by the way: My logic in 2008 was that there was no way Obama was going to win the election, because I really believed Americans weren’t going to vote for a black president. I made a 50 euro bet (I was out of the country at the time) that Obama wouldn’t win. (Sorry, I’m not like Mitt Romney, who can make a $50,000 bet. But if I had that kind of cash, I would have made it. And I would have allocated a chunk of the rest of my money as investment capital in a new president.) All that said, I was still going to vote for Obama despite my belief that it was a lost cause. But I didn’t pay attention to the political money. It turns out “my side” had the money because my candidate didn’t limit the amount of money he could use.

I still say McCain would have won that election if he hadn’t run such a terrible campaign, as noted above. Let’s say he didn’t commit the fatal fundraising mistake and collected an amount equal to what Obama raised. He still would have lost because picking Sarah Palin — instead of choosing ANY OTHER REPUBLICAN WOMAN — was a killer. Elizabeth Dole, Kay Bailey Hutchison, Olympia Snow, Susan Collins. You’ve heard of them. All Republican women. All serving in Congress. All respected, well known names. All extremely qualified. I haven’t even named the other female GOP governors who had more political cred that Palin, who ended up galvanizing the left as much as she did the right. None of the Republican women mentioned would have continually fed red meat to a rabid base, leaving everyone else to say “If John McCain died in office, there’s no way you’d want her as president.”

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