(Fund) Raising the Bar: When Money Talks, Do More People Listen?

election ballot 2012
By Erin Drushel
[avatar user=”ErinDrushel” size=”thumbnail” align=”left”]Erin Drushel[/avatar]

There are a lot of issues to talk about with the American presidential election “silly season” in full swing, and political fundraising is right up front and loaded.

Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign raised millions more than President Obama’s campaign for the second month in a row.

So what?  When money talks, do more people listen?

Consider where the fundraising dollars are coming from.  Based on the June fundraising breakdowns from the Obama Campaign and the Romney campaign, it seems Romney’s efforts are being aided by “big-money donors.”

I don’t see why this comes as a shock, considering where the respective voting bases are for each side.  Broadly speaking, it’s middle-class Americans versus wealthier Americans and Wall Street.  During tough economic times, who likely has more money to spend on political candidates?

President Obama says he could potentially be the first sitting President to ever be out-fundraised.  Is this really such a bad thing for a campaign?    Money doesn’t guarantee re-election.  If it did, every American president in history (who ran for a second term) would be a two-termer.   More money in advertising may get a few more voters paying attention, but how many active voters does it really influence?  It’s hard to know based on the polls.   After all, the only poll that really counts is the one on Election Day, where votes are cast by (hopefully) more than 1,000 randomly-selected people.

Since Obama’s campaign seems to be falling behind in the fundraising battle, his usual positive message of “hope and change” has, itself, changed in tenor.  Now, the message is tinged with desperation and negativity.  If the campaign platform rests on a narrative of progressive change and identifying with middle class Americans, then this gap should be used as an opportunity.  Instead of potentially alienating your support base, who likely already believe they can’t compete with “big money,” why not turn the message into your favour?  Where is the “we’re living within our means, just like you” message?  This apparent lapse in communication strategy suggests not only fear, but also being “out of touch” with the middle class.

However, just because you spin the message one way, doesn’t make it the only way to look at it.

No matter what your politics are, wouldn’t it be a kind of moral victory if a sitting President could win re-election with less money raised than his/her opponent?  It would certainly bolster the idea of the American Dream, where anyone can do anything, despite any limitations.

Values over cash, policies over pocketbooks – yes, it’s idealistic, but that’s why the American Dream, is a dream.

In retrospect, despite complaints about taxes and politicians, it’s interesting to note how much money people are willing to spend during elections.  If even a fraction of those millions were directed somewhere useful – like infrastructure projects – rather than into giant campaign advertising sinkholes, there would be an opportunity to do some real good.  Maybe some cities wouldn’t have to make impossible choices, like choosing between their water supply and their police force.

– By Erin Drushel

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