Monday, October 20, 2008

What Does $150 Million Dollars Mean?

WE'VE MOVED! Democratic Convention Watch is now at

There are actually two related questions: what does $150 mean to the current Obama campaign? Also, what does the ability to raise $150 Million dollars in one month from several million individual people mean for the future of campaign finance reform in America?

The second question is something that fascinates me, and which I’ll be writing on after the election. It's made even more interesting in that Obama has raised more this cycle than all competitors combined in 2000, and may eventually beat the 2004 total.

The first question is more immediate in nature. When I think of $150 million, my mind harkens back to the Mad Magazine strip “The Lighter Side of…” by Dave Berg. In “The Lighter Side of…Business” there was a guy in a suit running around an office with lots of desks, with people sitting at them. He was waving a piece of paper.

“Who made a 50 cent phone call?” he bellowed.

“JB,” one of his assistants implored, “You’re the head of an international multi-national corporation which deals in millions of dollars a year. Why do you care about a 50 cent phone call?”

“Hundreds of millions of dollars I don’t understand,” he said, “But a phone call should cost a nickel. Now WHO SPENT…..”
I admit, I don’t understand $150 million dollars. But in scale, I understand that the campaign is spending $39 million in Florida and millions more in other states. I know about the $39 million because I received an e-mail from the campaign about it. I received that e-mail twice: once to the e-mail address I used to give money to the campaign, where they thanked me for my contributions and asked for more, and the second to an alternate e-mail address where they pointed out that they knew I’d been on the site, but hadn’t given money yet, would I like to help?

Ask yourself, could the Obama campaign raised as much as they have without the internet? What will it mean if a candidate is elected who is “beholden” to a constituency of “regular Americans”?

Those are discussion points, but here is the reality: money drives the abilities of campaigns to compete. And right now, the Obama campaign can be likened to standing at the prize stand down the shore, or at the carnival, where you have your tickets won at skee-ball, and whack-the-gopher, and the other games. You have ALMOST enough tickets for the big prize you want. Do you play a few more games, or take the smaller prize?

The campaign has enough to win the election, but the bigger prize is what’s known as a mandate. If Obama wins the election, as Baby Bush did in 2004, with a bare win, it affects the ability to govern. Compare that to the mandate of LBJ in ’64 (486 EVs, 44 states plus the District of Columbia, which was that year voting in its first Presidential election.)

A mandate in this transformation year means that the 100 day honeymoon a president is usually accorded with Congress can be more blissful than usual. It means this year that when the two chambers return on 17 November, Obama's economic plan can be framed and, at worst, be ready to implement on 21 January 2009.

If you don't yet own a piece of the campaign, maybe now's the time.