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Archive for the ‘2008 Presidential Election’ Category

The campaign fund-raising figures have been released, and there are a few early winners, and a few early losers.

The winners are quite obvious: Senator Hillary Clinton (D, New York) $26 million, Senator Barack Obama (D, Illinois) with $25 million, and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (R) with $23 million.  The loser is also quite obvious as Senator John McCain (R, Arizona) raised “only” $12 million.

Senator McCain has long been known for his attempts to lessen money’s influence in politics; however, money still plays a major role, and he will need better fund-raising over the next several months if he wishes to stay in the race. His less-than-stellar fund-raising figures have been attributed to a disorganized fund-raising team, and a lackadaisical attitude among the fund-raising staff. Needless to say, the campaign announced a reorganization of their fundraising efforts would take place.

The most intriguing part of the figures lies with Senator Obama and former Governor Romney’s fund-raising totals. Romney, though trailing in most polls, took in a massive amount of money over the first phase of fund-raising. Many have attributed this to his ties in the corporate world, as well as to the Mormon church. His multi-million dollar lead on both former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (who raised around $17 million) and Senator McCain shows that Romney is to be taken very seriously.

Senator Obama’s ability to raise money, as evidenced by his $25 million, must be making those in Senator Clinton’s campaign a little worried. Not only did Obama, who does have nearly as many fund-raising connections as Senator Clinton, raise nearly as much money as Clinton, but he did so with nearly twice as many contributors (100,000 for Obama as opposed to 50,000 for Clinton), showing his widespread appeal, and the ability to go back to some of those contributors for more donations.

It’s still very early, but with the number of highly recognizable candidates (Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, John Edwards) fund-raising has been outrageous so far. The previous highs for fund-raising at this point were nearly $15 million less than Clinton and Obama’s totals. Howard Dean in 2004, who started off in January with the largest campaign war-chest, had around $40 million. It looks at those some of this year’s candidates will reach those totals by this June.

While this year’s candidates’ ability to raise money is remarkable, it also serves as more evidence that more and more money is required for a presidential campaign, and that the campaign needs to  be shortened, and the amount of money spent on it lessened.

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John McCain and a congressional delegation visited Iraq recently, and commented on the relative peacefulness and safety of Baghdad’s largest marketplace.

The Iraqis had other things to say.

Most of the Iraqis in the market pointed out that the relative safety had more to do with the increased security for the Congressmen (Sharpshooters on the rooftops, attack helicopters, Humvees, shut-off vehicle access, etc.) rather than the actual state of affairs in the marketplace. They referenced recent attacks that have killed dozens of people – mostly women and children – in the marketplace.

Senator McCain, running for President in 2008, has staunchly supported the Iraq War and has voted against attempts in Congress to call for a troop withdrawal. While a longtime fan of McCain, I’m disappointed in his apparent disregard for the opinions of the Iraqis in the marketplace, as well as his misleading statements – statements which could be construed as an attempt to justify his own position on the war.

While I agree with McCain that withdrawing is not a good plan, I also think that misrepresenting the situation is dishonest and manipulative.

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Presidential primaries didn’t used to be like this.

Back in 1968 Robert Kennedy joined in the primary in March of 1968. In today’s primary system, he would not have the funding in place, and would’ve missed most of the state votes.

Because the voting starts in January and doesn’t end until June, the process is dragged out for a long period of time, requiring huge amounts of money. In a competitive race, this creates a long campaign that saps money and energy. In order to have enough money to last from pretty much November of 2007 through June of 2008 (and then beyond if you win the primary) you have to begin fund-raising far in advance, which is why so many candidates announce over a year and a half ahead of time. It’s April of 2007, and in the U.S. we knew the candidates by mid-February. There may be a few more to announce (notably Newt Gingrich), but it’s almost a year before the first primary votes in New Hampshire and Iowa.

By creating such a long campaign, the primary system, in effect, bores and alienates most voters. The American public has a very short attention span, with 24 hour news networks constantly changing to the most sensational story. Because most people tune out the primaries, turnout (which is already incredibly low) drops lower, thereby amplifying the effect of those who do turnout – the people who are most politically active, aware, and inclined: the more extreme ends of each party.

Not to mention the fact that by having the first few primaries spread out state by state, that the winner of the first few states usually quickly builds momentum, his votes begin to snowball, and we have a de facto winner by March (and the primary doesn’t end until June).

Think on that for a moment. If we know both candidates by March and the general election is not until November that creates a seven month long campaign for the general election. Seven long months of pot shots, negative ads, and general mud-slinging.

All of these things boil down to this: if Candidate A wants to be President, he needs to be prepared to campaign from November of 2007 to November of 2008. That’s 52 weeks of campaigning. You’ll need a minimum of $1 million a week for the primary, which is state by state. The primary campaign runs typically from November to June. That’s about $35 million minimum for a primary that ends early. In reality you’d need more around the range of $50 million for the primary. If the candidates follow campaign finance reforms, they’ll be limited to around $75 million for the general election.

Do the math. That’s $125 million dollars.

Imagine this alternative:

The parties’ conventions are held one week apart – one the last week of August, the other the first week of September. That gives each candidate two full months to campaign. Now, if the primary needs to be done with by the last week of August then the voting should probably be finished by the first week of August. All fifty states hold primaries. Many of the states hold elections on the same day. If the primaries would begin at the beginning of May, that would be three months of primary elections. That cuts the election process down from 10 months to 6 months.

If, by the previous calculation, the existing process would cost around $125 million, then that’s an average of over $10 million per month. If you cut the campaign back by just 4 months, you’re saving over $40 million in campaign dollars, relieving the American people of four months of mud-slinging, and, by cutting back on the amount of time needed to campaign, allowing for more time to govern.

Now, this plan will most likely never come to pass, as the parties and individual states determine the primary systems.

But just imagine.

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On April 15, the candidates running for President in 2008 will have to release their recent fund-raising figures to the public, but even before that date, there’s a good idea of how each candidate is doing.

The projected early leaders are John McCain and Hillary Clinton, who have well developed fund-raising options. Also, each of them has a federal account through their Senate campaigns which they can funnel into their quest for the presidency.

Giuliani and Romney are receiving money from their respective states, New York and Massachusetts. Romney also has the fund-raising from Mormons and his contacts from the corporate world. Both of these men have the disadvantage of having to start from scratch, as they cannot transfer any federal dollars into their accounts from Senate or House fund-raising.

While Edwards will again rely on his trial lawyer network, Obama has perhaps the most different approach of all of the candidates. He has still received many donations from larger groups – notably Hollywood – Obama has also taken a different tack to his large scale fund-raising, taking somewhat of a Howard Dean approach by holding events with very cheap entry fees to attract large audiences. He already has a strong “grass roots” appeal, and by hosting these events and using the Internet he’s utilizing a different approach then you typically see.

In the end most of this isn’t really new. The front runners will continue to build money and endorsements and take small jabs at each other, and the big hitting will come this fall and winter. The reality of it is, if the candidates don’t raise enough to be able to pay the $1 million a week that they’ll need during the primary, their candidacy is in trouble.

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Today I watched An Inconvenient Truth, the documentary on Al Gore’s fight to spread the word on global warming.

Anyone who has watched the documentary has seen much of the overwhelming evidence that shows that global warming is indeed a fact – not some made up theory about current climate change.

The global warming debate is one of the must puzzling in a long time. All scientific evidence shows that global warming is not some kooky theory – it is fact. The scientific community is not debating this, they are in agreement that global warming exists. The problem comes when people, for what they deem economic reasons, come out against it in the public media. While there is no debate over global warming in the scientific community, the literature in the scientific community is not widely read by the American public. The literature that is widely read by the public has many articles that have been published by Big Oil and those who feel that global warming presents an economic threat to them, and, as such, the American public reads articles and sees speeches that are divided on whether or not global warming is an actual phenomenon.

The sad part of it is, that while the American public remains sadly ignorant, global warming is occuring all around us. Now I did not need to see An Inconvenient Truth to inform of the problems associated with global warming, it did remind me of the fact that people still don’t believe it exists!

How can we fix this problem? It’s a difficult thing to think about, as a major part of the problem resides in where Americans get their information from (see my previous post on this). Because so many Americans get so much of their information from sources who may not be accurate, many Americans remain somewhat ignorant on many issues.

Until the American public speaks out about global warming, the American government will not speak out about global warming. Representatives in Congress will only press on matters they believe will get them votes from their electorate, as Gore states in the documentary.

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CNN recently wrote an article about how Republican candidates will be concentrating time and effort on winning California during the primary since it has a huge chunk of the delegates required for the nomination.

Well, duh.

Even in the Democratic primaries, which are not winner-take-all, candidates concentrate on the “big states” (California, New York, Texas, Florida). “Super Tuesday” in March is the biggest day of the Democratic primary, and candidates of both parties are obviously going to concentrate on the states with the highest number of delegates, just as much as they concentrate on the first few primaries, where gaining momentum for the rest of the primary circuit is key.

Many times I’ve felt that the “political” news coverage provides us with many “duh” moments, and an entire entry on CNN.com about how candidates will concentrate on a big state merely reinforced that.

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In a visit to Buckhead for a fundraiser tomorrow (2/28/07), Mitt Romney came under fire for changing his abortion views. In a clear attempt to appease the Religious Right in the Republican primaries, Romney has been supporting more restrictive abortion laws.

These kinds of moves seem to be becoming quite popular among some of the more moderate Republican candidates (McCain, Romney, Giuliani). Knowing that the more conservative wing of the party votes in the Republican primaries, each of these candidates has, in recent months, made an attempt to show that they are “more conservative.” McCain, in particular, seeing what happened in the 2000 primaries, has made very visible overtures to the conservatives in the party.

Oh well. This is the reality of the primaries. Due to much lower turnout, primaries are not highly representative of the nation as a whole. Obama, Clinton, Edwards, and Biden will all face this in the Democratic primaries – the pull of the liberal wing of the Democratic party. Hopefully, in the election (and most importantly, in governing) the candidates will move toward the center.

On another note, the fact that Romney is coming under fire for, as he puts it, “changing his mind” brings up an entire other subject. Its common knowledge that the American public loves the politician who “sticks to his guns,” but the idea that a politician, or any person for that matter, can’t change his mind when he perceives that a previous position was wrong is ludicrous. The President is renown for his “unwavering” stances. However, when those “unwavering” stances are wrong, wouldn’t you rather he change his mind? That’s less likely to happen if politicians continue to get crucified for changing any of their positions (which is actually quite common).

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