THE MONEY ISN’T THERE…. The severity of the financial crisis has affected the presidential campaign in obvious ways — as the McCain campaign has publicly acknowledged, the more Americans focus on the economy, the better it is for Obama — but it’s let’s not overlook another less obvious implication.
Remember all of those right-wing 527s that were going overwhelm the political landscape? As it happens, the conservative financiers have lost a lot of money lately.
“After the [GOP] convention, things looked good,” said Phil Musser, a Republican fundraising consultant. “Major donors interested in issue advocacy were tuned in, political juices were flowing, polling looked good, and then, blammo! Most donors lost 20 or 30 percent of their net worth in eight days. With few exceptions, that pretty well shut down the money discussion for a lot of folks.”
Four years ago, groups operating outside the party structure invested more than $130 million in television commercials, often carrying the kind of negative messages that the candidates themselves wished to avoid. This year, total spending by such groups is at about $17 million so far, with no single organization playing a dominant role, according to Evan Tracey of the Campaign Media Analysis Group.
There were reports earlier this year, for example, that Freedom’s Watch was prepared to amass a quarter-billion dollar budget for the 2008 campaigns. Billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson was expected to help bankroll the operation — that is, before he saw “$4 billion of his personal fortune evaporate as a result of the slumping national economy, and that was before the slow-motion stock market crash.”
The slowdown in giving appears to have had a disproportionate impact on Republicans. Obama holds an enormous money advantage in the closing weeks of the campaign. His ads have been bolstered by mail and phone-bank efforts largely financed by labor unions. The AFL-CIO alone has directed more than $50 million to persuade its members to support Obama and other Democrats.