I’ll be brief.
This past week saw a lot of backslapping, handwringing and discussion regarding the first quarter fundraising numbers for both the Democratic and republican presidential candidates.
- $26 million for Senator Clinton – a new record, we are told.
- $25 million, but 100,000 donors for Senator Obama – twice the number as Clinton.
- A “mere” $14 million for former Senator Edwards.
- A “surprising” $20 million for Mitt Romney – making him the potential new “force to be reckoned with”.
- Very disappointing numbers for Senator McCain, Governor Richardson and a number of other candidates.
- The thought that Edwards, Obama AND Clinton all could make it to the Democratic convention with (1) enough money and (2) not enough delegates and could trigger some interesting “stuff”.
- The “conventional wisdom” that this will ultimately be a $1 billion dollar election.
And what is missing from this picture? Substance. Issues. You know, important things..
We aren’t hearing all that much about whether Giuliani’s support for Kerik, even while knowing he was connected to the mob. Or whether Richardson’s pretty impressive resume would actually make him a good President and Commander in Chief. Or where Clinton stands on important things like, you know, “issues”.
Or that McCain really isn’t fit for office because of who he has surrounded himself with, his delusional rantings on how “safe” the streets of Baghdad are, or the lies, pandering and backpeddling he has specialized in over the past few years. No – we are hearing about his “lagging candidacy” because he didn’t raise enough money.
Yes, it has been this way for a good while now – you can’t run for office without being able to do the fundraising. But this is really out of hand. This will give you an idea on how much spending on Congressional races has skyrocketed over the past few decades:
The cost of congressional campaigns has skyrocketed, from an average of about $87,000 spent for successful House elections in 1976 (about $308,000 in 2006 dollars) to an average of $1.3 million spent on winning campaigns in 2006. Successful Senate candidates in 1976 spent an average of $609,000 (about $2.2 million in 2006 dollars), and in 2006, the average Senate winner spent an astonishing $9.6 million.
Starting the day after they are elected, House members must begin raising more than $1,000 a day to amass large enough war chests to wage their next campaign, while senators must raise more than $3,000 per day.
Regardless of whether Governor Vilsack was a viable or solid candidate on the issues, he dropped out a few months back because he couldn’t raise enough money to keep campaigning. And, while I have no way to confirm this hunch of mine, there are some very VERY good candidates who chose to “sit this one out” because of the “star power” of Senators Clinton and Obama.
Star power is one thing. That would be if they could galvanize people to follow their leadership abilities ON THE ISSUES. Sadly, this isn’t even close to the case. It is the “star power” to raise hundreds of millions of dollars to strongarm out the smaller but just as important voices of other potential candidates. Candidates who may be more willing to take a strong stand. Candidates who don’t talk out of both sides of their mouth. Candidates who aren’t so afraid of saying something that they actually mean but may not play well with their handlers.
Now, I am not saying that we don’t have some pretty solid candidates. We do. But, as I have said previously these candidates may be strong Senators but right now we need strong and bold LEADERS.
Not people who can just raise gobs and gobs of cash while not staking out any strong and bold positions, and having the strength and courage to really back those positions up. We have 2 candidates who are Senators. Let them take this chance to sponsor and rally support for bills that they feel strongly about. Let them have their “plans” be the ones pushed by Senate leadership. Let their ideas be the ones that are used in this year’s agenda.
Now is the time to show leadership. And leadership comes from making other people WANT to follow you. Not by having the ability to raise more money that is, by any reasonable or rational measure, needed to show that you can lead this country.
That holds true for both Democrats and republicans. This should be a battle of who wants to lead this country, and has the vision and the ability to do so. Not about who can raise more money so they can be “called” the leader of this country.