US elections – can money buy victory?
The American economy may be in trouble. But the amounts of money being raised and spent in this election campaign are unprecedented and add up to their own stimulus package – although the only sectors of the economy that are benefiting are campaign strategists, local TV stations and advertisers.
Romney is winning the fund raising arms race.
He has been harvesting more than 100 million dollars a month, with most of the cash coming from Wall Street and the big business community that favoured Obama in 2008.
In the last election Obama raised roughly equal amounts from Wall Street and its ilk and the other half from the millions of foot soldiers who gave a fist full of dollars, an email address and eventually a vote. Many of them were roped into knocking on doors and handing out leaflets.
This time round he will have to rely on this regiment even more. But this time their enthusiasm has also fizzled. Hope and change are like a soufflee. They don’t rise twice.
So Obama has increased his efforts to tap the Democrats’ natural constituencies: Hollywood and Haute Couture. George Clooney threw him a dinner in Beverly Hills. Anna Wintour – the British born editor of American Vogue and Devil Wears Prada fame – co-hosted a Manhattan soiree with Sarah Jessica Parker. Price per plate: 40 000 dollars.
When you are trying to portray yourself as the candidate of the 99 per cent, this kind of solicitation is as unseemly as it is necessary.
Mitt Romney is less embarassed about his own cash and other people’s. His whole message rests on his ability to make mountains of money. So why bother hiding it.
Rich Americans have had their feelings hurt by all that banker bashing. The 0.01 percent feel horribly misunderstood and Mitt Romney has felt their pain and their generosity.
But is all this cash a good investment?
Winning the fund raising arms race doesn’t always mean winning the race.Just ask Senator John Kerry, who hamstered away 40 million more dollars than George W Bush in 2004 and still lost.
But without money you can’t even get started at any level of American politics.
President Obama is attending on average one fundraiser per day. Senators and Congressmen and women are having to spend more and more time on wielding the begging bowl. This must be an unhealthy distraction from the day job.
The other problem is that it creates too many benefactors who will breathe down the victors’ necks expecting favours: whether it’s an ambassadorship, or blind eye on legislation, or even a cabinet post.
Money is the lifeblood of American politics and its poison.
Follow @mattfrei on Twitter.