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April 04, 2007

Does Money Equal Votes?

What sort of surprises me about Obama's mega-take is how disconnected it is from his apparent momentum. He appears to have functionally matched Hillary's fundraising, despite routinely trailing her in national polls. Moreover, he's not only been unable to gain much early traction in Iowa, where Edwards leads, but he just ceded second place in New Hampshire to Edwards (with Hillary in first).

We may be seeing the further disassociation of fundraising from widespread support. Take Obama's haul. Given the remarkable 100,000 donors, I'd guess you're seeing widespread support from the "netroots," broadly defined. In other words, from computer literate, highly-informed, well-educated, fairly young, political junkies who, due to the sophistication of online fundraising techniques and their particularly high response rate to such appeals, are emerging as an actual funding bloc even as they remain weak as a voting bloc. That said, most primary voters, as we saw with Dean, are not computer literate, highly-informed, well-educated, fairly young, political junkies. We'll see whether Obama could build the bridge that Dean could not. Clinton, meanwhile, has the broadest support but not the broadest donor base, because he supporters skew older, poorer, and are less politically involved.

On the other side of the aisle, it looks like Romney's huge haul relied heavily on donations from the Mormon community, which presents an even more extreme version of this problem. Most primary voters really aren't Mormons, and it's an open question whether they're comfortable with a candidate funded heavily by that demographic. In his case, the money may actually turn into a liability

April 4, 2007 in Election 2008 | Permalink

Comments

At this point in the game, neither money or poll numbers are very reliable indicators of final votes. But money - especially smaller donations carried out over a larger number of donors - begets money. And it's important to the health of the campaign (good morale for staff and supporters) going forward.

Posted by: gwen | Apr 4, 2007 12:47:15 PM

I've been looking at Obama as 2008's Dean, a lot of passion derived largely from rhetorical war opposition rather than policy positions. Obama is a much more competent politician than Dean, and he has a little time to come up with policies, but apparently his campaign manager does not believe in substantive campaigning.

Characterizing likely primary voters as poorly informed compared to "netroots" is backwards, those primary voters have a better sense of the candidates policy positions and their implications than the "netroots", and they are less likely to be swept up in the enthusiasm for this cycle's Democratic party savior.

Posted by: tib | Apr 4, 2007 1:09:45 PM

that said, most primary voters, as we saw with Dean, are not computer literate, highly-informed, well-educated, fairly young, political junkies

As I recall, the demographics of Dean activists showed a "U-shape". The netroots have a lot of retread activists from the Vietnam/civil rights generation, and a lot of gen-Y/late gen-X activists who have known two Presidents in their lifetime: Clinton and Bush (who you gonna pick), neither of whom dismissed the roll of activist government or volunteerism as much as Reagan.

But yes, otherwise, point taken. It's possible that most people in Iowa still aren't paying attention to politics, maybe because, I don't know, there are ten months between now and the Iowa caucuses?

Even as an Edwards booster, the New Hampshire poll is basically within MoE float. It was closer to HRC & Obama's announcements, and JRE has been in the news with EE's cancer. Everything's in flux at this ridiculously early stage.

Posted by: Nicholas Beaudrot | Apr 4, 2007 2:03:49 PM

Obama attracts large numbers of Independents and Swing voters. They are not counted with the party polls.
If they polled those and added them with the democratic one you would find a very different poll and numbers.

Posted by: vwcat | Apr 4, 2007 3:21:05 PM

tib - I'd dispute the simplicity of "Obama is Dean 2008." Aside from the situation being far from analagous - Dean jumped into the race and attracted attention because other Dems seemed unable or unwilling to say the things tghat needed to be said - Obama seems far smoother, more polished, and less interested in being, well, out there in quite the way that Dr. Dean was. Indeed, as much as it pains me to admit it, we probably don't need another Dean, because momentum is favoring Dems naturally and as a result even unctuous political talk can't help but highlight that Democrats are not Republicans and will not do the same things they do.

I think, if anything, everyone has inherited a political landscape changed because of Howard Dean. And the result? Well, probably at this point, Hillary Clinton wins the nomination, may win the Presidency, and if she does, she will likely remove Dean from the DNC. Some thanks.

As for the money raised, I think progressives should be careful not to get too caught up in the "money primary" aspects of the race; it's great that a) Democrats as a whole raised so much that b) it's divided rather evenly and c) that so much of it was small donations raised in grassroots style. But let's keep in mind, the amounts of money involved are distressing and rather distasteful, especially as they aggregate, and suggest that nothing can stop the absurd money chase of the Presidential hopefuls. As liberals, I was under the impression that we were not, really, in favor of all of this mad fundraising. Let's not get tooo caught up in the somewhat meaningless exercise of agreeing that only absurd piles of cash can gurantee the Presidency. Surely we expect more than that.

Posted by: weboy | Apr 4, 2007 3:33:32 PM

This is why all of Romney's money isn't likely to do him any good. It's not coming from any sort of broad base, even within the smaller universe of big GOP donors. If all he's got, both in terms of financial and voter support, is the LDS, then he's screwed.

And it looks like his record of flipflopping has killed his chances of expanding his base of support. $20 million in the bank, and he's a dead candidate walking.

Posted by: RT | Apr 4, 2007 5:55:23 PM

This importance of raising big dollars is not so a candidate can run around New Hampshire or Iowa begging for a few primary delegates. The big money will go toward the Feb 5 primaries in big states like CA, NY, NJ where media costs are very high and presidential primary voters normally have not been engaged until late in the cycle.

Posted by: CParis | Apr 4, 2007 7:27:46 PM

He appears to have functionally matched Hillary's fundraising, despite routinely trailing her in national polls.

The polls at this stage are almost entirely a reflection of name recognition and rarely measure true depth of support. That's why I hate the current obsession in the media (and political blogs) on week-to-week poll numbers and secondarily, fundraising prowess. These are about process not purpose: "will Hillary win?" or "can Obama win?" not "should they be president?".

Neither of these talk to the fundamentals of the presidency. Candidates rise and fall on puff pieces and attack ads, not on their capabilities or their stands on the issues.

I believe you made a similar point about Obama's celebrity status recently - so where is the focus on who these people are?

Posted by: Mikef | Apr 5, 2007 1:00:53 PM

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Posted by: judy | Sep 28, 2007 5:44:37 AM

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