McCain Continues Effort to Delegitimize Election
by Jonathan Singer, Sun Oct 19, 2008 at 05:23:56 PM EDT
I have noted already efforts by the Republicans to delegitimize this year's election, namely by trying to call into question the newly registered voters -- an effort, it seems, that is more aimed at framing the way the election is viewed after the fact than it is about changing voter sentiments ahead of the election. As a part of this broader argument, John McCain is now claiming that the record fundraising haul by Barack Obama raises questions of corruption.
John McCain said this morning that Barack Obama's record $150 million fundraising haul last month was the sort of take that could eventually cause corruption and would lead to another overhaul of the campaign finance system.
"What's going to happen, particularly if you've got an incumbent president, and we no longer stick to the finance -- the public financing, which was a result of the Watergate scandal?" McCain said on "Fox News Sunday." "So what's going to happen? The dam is broken. We're now going to see huge amounts of money coming into political campaigns, and we know history tells us that always leads to scandal."
Of course McCain doesn't mention the fact that this money came in chunks no greater than $2,300 -- or fifteen-ten-thousandths of a percent of what Obama raised in the month of September alone (to what extent, exactly, such a relatively small contribution could corrupt is left unsaid by McCain) -- and that the average contribution was just $86, which is far from the type of money that could corrupt a presidential candidate. Nevertheless, the smears and innuendo from McCain and his campaign persist.
But think, for a moment, what the money means. You have no doubt seen the argument, both in the run up to the general election and since, that the public financing program is broken. Although $85 million sounds like a good deal of money upon which to wage a campaign, realistically one can only maintain a serious on-air effort in fewer than a dozen states with such restricted financing. As a result, we have seen the same swing states receiving the bulk of advertisements in recent presidential elections, with many, if not most, voters not being spoken directly to by the candidates and their campaigns.
Obama has been able to begin to reverse the trend on the basis of his healthy grassroots fundraising numbers, advertising in about a dozen and a half states, as well as nationally. States like Indiana, North Carolina, Nebraska, North Dakota, Montana, Georgia, Colorado and Virginia -- states that have largely been ignored in years past -- have been added to the traditional battleground states this year as a direct result of the increased funding for the Obama campaign, allowing millions more voters to have a stronger say in the direction of the country.
And more broadly, how much money is too much money to be spent on the election? This graf from a New York Times article over the weekend jumped out at me, but not likely for the reason it was intended to.
Here in Philadelphia, the biggest media market in a critical state, both candidates showed a mix of positive and negative advertisements on Friday. The spots seemed to show up across the dial as regularly as the affable Geico gecko or the ambling ne'er-do-wells of FreeCreditReport.com.
Is it really a bad thing if messages about the direction of the country reach voters at the same rate as Geico ads or FreeCreditReport.com ads? This is the future of the country we're talking about, it's the future of the world. Shouldn't we be seeing at least as many ads relating to the election -- if not more -- as we are about efforts to bamboozle consumers into paying for extras along with the credit check they are entitled to once a year?
So in the end, what we have here are a bunch of half-truths and confusing conjectures by Republicans to make it seem like the Obama campaign is acting nefariously -- in terms of campaign finance, in terms of registering voters, in terms of alleged ties to Bill Ayers, etc. -- when it is simply not the case. Not exactly an honorable campaign tactic, if you ask me, and not even necessarily a campaign tactic as much as a post-campaign tactic to undercut a potential victory by Obama.
Update [2008-10-19 21:27:13 by Jonathan Singer]: Much more on this from Tom Mattzie.