Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Obama's Big Advantage

   Fundraising letters since June sent directly from the Obama Reelection Campaign have been stating the need for more money, and how Gov. Romney will out spend the Obama campaign. This past Friday, one came from President Obama with the title of "This Is Critical" and Monday morning one came from Joe Biden promoting the contest to go the the DNC Convention. Both campaigns appear to be intensely focused on the money aspect right now. If all trends continue, this will be the first time that a sitting President has raised less funds than his challenger. Right now the Romney campaign is nearing the halfway mark to their goal of $800,000,000 and they have about $190,000,000 on hand.   Much of this they cannot spend until Gov. Romney is the official nominee, so expect the intensity to kick up a little bit after August 30th.

   So how important is all this in the grand scheme of President Obama's reelection campaign? It's not really important at all. Many people love to tout these numbers, but they are not a real world indicator of success or failure. Do you need a boat load of money to run a Presidential campaign? Hell yes, but you only have to raise enough to produce efficacy.

   What many lose sight of is the real purpose behind a political ad. The entire point is to get your message to the voters. In this realm quality is king, not quantity. Sometimes we can see an ad for something 100 times and not be intrigued by it. For me a very specific example is a certain fast food chain that considers themselves to be burger royalty. I live in California, and in our market this self appointed autocracy keeps advertising a Memphis BBQ sandwich. No, no, and a side of no. I would have to be a hostage before I ate this. And that is how many people are with political candidates.

   In Presidential elections 41-43% of the voting population will vote for the candidate with the D next to their name, and 41-43% will vote for the candidate with the R next to their name. There are of course exceptions to the rule, Perot taking votes in 1996 and 1992, and other odd cases, but in relation to this cycle the math will hold due to the lack of a viable 3rd party candidate. So the goal becomes wooing 7.1% to 8.1% of that undecided vote.

   This translates to allocation of funds to very specific areas. States like California, New York, and Maryland, the Obama campaign will not need to spend anymore than the obligatory amount. Sans an epic event for the ages, these are solidly in their electoral column. Based on the most accurate current data available, President Obama has a very safe 216 electoral votes in his column, and my estimate is conservative. Keep in mind that 270 is the magic number, which leaves only 54 necessary to win his second term. Florida (29 electoral votes), Pennsylvania (20 votes) and any other state will do the job. Of course there are other combinations of states that would do it, but this is the big one. PA looks to be going Obama and FL is a toss up. So the efforts, and funds can be concentrated into just a few states. A few other factors help trump the money advantage.

   President Obama ran and won in 2008, that network is largely still there. The ground presence and grassroots efforts have been in place, and they are likely effective at what they are doing. This can be a very important part of the process. It does not matter how many people WOULD vote for a candidate only how many actually do vote for them. Another, and possibly the biggest advantage, is the bully pulpit. The sitting President has more free coverage through the press than any other human in the world. He can use this to get his message out, for free, on a daily basis. He can address what he wants, how he wants, when he wants, and the White House press corps (that literally travels with him every where) will cover it all, it will be printed, it will be talked about in the news, and all this will happen at a moments notice. Ads, on the other hand, can take significant time to get placed, and they typically get less exposure.

   Don't get too comfortable, we still have 76 more days until the election, and it will really heat up after the conventions. Stay tuned, in a later post I will address why the money and even the bully pulpit may be non-factors for both candidates. Message content will decide the election.

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