Sunday, April 09, 2006

General election public funding in 2008

WE'VE MOVED! Democratic Convention Watch is now at

The issue of public funding of the general election is closely tied to the scheduling of conventions, since the money does not become available until after the convention. As I've discussed here, here, and here, the relationship between convention dates and public financing and has changed drastically over the last 10 years, and I think it is changing again.

To review,
it used to be there were advantages in having an earlier convention due to money. For a candidate taking public money for the primaries and the general election, they wouldn't get the general election money until after the convention. For example, Bob Dole in 1996 had a huge money problem in May and June. He was broke, and could do little advertising until he received his general election money in early August. Having an early convention was critical to a candidate low on funds.

But 8 years later, much had changed. Both Bush and Kerry opted out of public financing of their primary campaigns, and could therefore spend unlimited money until they had their convention. So the later the convention, the less time the General Election public money had to cover. This is why the Kerry campaign was looking at ways of potentially delaying the official acceptance of the nomination, so they could continue to use their unlimited primary money.

Which brings us to 2008. Looking at the money situation, the conventional wisdom is now that a late convention is a good thing, and with the two conventions back-to-back, the playing field will be level.

But I wonder if things aren't changing again in front of our eyes. Discussing the GOP convention date, the Hotline wrote:

If both party nominees decide to accept the federal match for the general, they'll get to spend it over a relatively shorter period of time.
Note the word, "if". And today, 2004 Democratic candidate John Kerry made this statement about his biggest mistake in 2004:
"I think the biggest mistake was probably not going outside the federal financing so we could have controlled our own message," the Massachusetts senator said on NBC's "Meet the Press." The Kerry campaign opted to accept federal money and federal spending limits and other rules after he won the Democratic nomination. The nominating convention in Boston occurred more than a month before the GOP renominated Bush, forcing Kerry to begin spending under federal rules much earlier than Bush.

"We had a 13-week general election, they had an eight-week general election. We had the same pot of money. We had to harbor our resources in a different way and we didn't have the same freedom," Kerry said. "I think the most important thing would have been to spend more money, if we could have, on the advertising and responding to some of the attacks," he said.

I think public funding for the general election is going to be declined by both major candidates in 2008. And once that happens, the money gates will be wide open. (And future convention dates won't have to be driven by financial considerations).


Anonymous said...

So the GOP is seriously going with the first week of September?
HA HA HA HA!! That's the week everyone is focused on getting the kids back to their first week of school.

I like the dates that Dean selected for the Democratic Convention, but just out of curiosity Matt:

If Dean announced tomorrow that he's changed the dates to September 13 thru the 16th, what would the GOP do? Would they turn around and change theirs to following week? I mean, would they do anything to ensure they have it "traditionally" last?

I just had to ask!! LOL!


Matt said...

If the DNC changed their dates, I bet the GOP would just change also. But in reality, you can only go so late in September. As I mentioned, Dean has to worry about his teacher delegates. The debates are coming in early October. And some states have filing deadlines in mid-September to get on the November ballot. And the TV networks are rolling out their fall schedules, and are not going to want to give up time for convention coverage. There are a lot more distractions in mid-September (school, fall, football) than the last week in August. Dean will stay where he is.