Sunday, February 10, 2008

Money Isn't Everything

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have raised over 10 million dollars apiece since Super Tuesday, a day that divided delegates and demonstrated just how close the race for the Democratic Presidential nomination really is. By the time this article is published, those estimates are likely to double for each candidate.
It is hard for me not to be pleased when contributions for both Clinton and Obama substantially exceed that of any Republican candidate, but the excessive attention recently given to campaign fundraising has given me pause. While many, including Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, have expressed concern over the possibility of an undecided race heading into the convention, I think that America deserves as long as it needs to choose its future President. On the other hand, I think the focus needs to be on policy, rather than a back and forth contest of who has been able to raise the most money.
As someone who looks forward to a debate like a playoff game, I was disappointed to hear that Obama only agreed to one of Clinton's weekly challenges in February, stating that “it is very important for me to actually reach voters, something that may be less important for Sen. Clinton to do because she is better-known in many parts of the country." The Los Angeles debate, which “actually” reached an estimated 8.3 million viewers, has been the only chance for voters to draw distinctions between the two front-runners since John Edwards exited the contest.
Political advertising is about to blanket Texas in an effort to get out the vote on March fourth. Leading up to Super Tuesday, the New York Times reported that Obama and Clinton were dishing out an estimated two million dollars per week on television advertising. It’s hard for me to imagine that thirty seconds of cheese; smiling faces, handshakes, and broad generalizations can tip the scale for an undecided voter, but it’s probably safe to assume, given expenditure reports, that there is significant evidence available that substantiates its power.
While the incessant coverage of fundraising in the media has been frustrating to me personally, I know that there are a lot of reasons to be thankful for it. It gives me hope that in an unstable economy, there have been hundreds of thousands of new contributors for both candidates; individuals who want so badly to see America head in a new direction that they are willing to give away their own hard earned money. I guess that it’s just hard for me to watch so much of their sacrifice be spent on commercials.
While I think that there is very little that can be learned from the man, Mitt Romney’s decision to end his Presidential race reminded me of something. Votes cannot be purchased. Despite contributing over 35 million dollars to his own campaign and outspending all of his competitors, Mitt Romney simply could not convince Republicans to support him. He ended his Presidential bid at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, and I somehow managed to make it through his entire speech without changing the channel. I watched as he passed his moral judgment, citing terms like “activist judges” in his call for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, referencing percentages of children born out-of-wedlock in claiming that our nation cannot stand “when its children are raised without fathers in the home”, and saying that Europe’s “weakened faith in the Creator” has created a “demographic disaster.” He compared welfare programs to “poison” and used fear tactics in describing a vote for Clinton or Obama as a “surrender to terror” and an end to the war in Iraq as a declaration of defeat. As his long list of reasons as to why I am voting for the Democratic nominee in November of 2008 came to a close, I smiled at the realization of something that recent reports and media coverage had led me to question. Despite it’s undeniable importance, money isn’t everything.

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