Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Remember when the standard thinking about the Bush campaign's financial situation in this election went something like this?

If money is the mother's milk of politics, as one Republican fund-raiser puts it, then George W. Bush is swimming in it, thanks to a small army of "Rangers" rounding up cash for the presumptive GOP presidential candidate.

Political observers believe Bush's network of fund-raisers, along with campaign-finance rule changes that work strongly in Bush's favor, will likely allow the president to overwhelm any Democratic opponent with an unchallenged flurry of spending.

- ABC News, 3 July 2003

The picture certainly has changed:

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and his Democratic allies have raised almost twice as much money as the Bush-Cheney campaign so far this year, according to recent government filings.

The data show that despite the fears of many Democrats, their White House nominee likely will not be significantly hurt by his funding disparity compared to President Bush this election year. The figures also call into question the effectiveness of campaign-finance reform and whether it has in fact wrung special-interest money out of politics.

Calls into question the effectiveness of campaign-finance reform? Are you kidding? Campaign finance reform couldn't have worked better. We started this election cycle with the near universal expectation that the incumbent politician would have an overwhelming money advantage that would be almost certain to knock out his opponent.

Instead, the Democratic party has embraced its grass-roots, and now, due almost entirely to millions of dollars of donations over the internet to Democratic groups, the Democrats are financially competitive. This is a big first, at least in recent history. It is also another sign that the Bush folks are off their game.

One more thing. Two new polls out suggest that Bush has pushed slightly ahead of President Kerry. Some others, like the Zogby Poll, show Kerry slightly ahead. What's clear is that the election is very close. Before Democrats start getting nervous and critical of Kerry for running a poor campaign, it's important to keep in mind that Kerry has been shooting at Kerry with a semi-automatic weapon, while Kerry has been loading. Now that Kerry is fully armed, the campaign will truly be afoot.


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