September 30, 2003
WaPo Misses The Point

I was flipping through the Washington Post this morning and the headline on this story caught my eye: Bush Far Outpaces Dean in Donations. I thought, “Maybe this whole microfinancing thing has got a ways to go before it can compete with thousand-dollar-a-plate dinners after all.”

Then I actually read the story and realized that the problem wasn’t with microfinancing, it was with whoever wrote the headline. It turns out that, while it’s true that Bush is outpacing Dean in donations, Bush is also outpacing all other Democrats in donations too — and the candidates who are depending most heavily on old-style fundraising methods most heavily, like Senators John Edwards, Joe Lieberman, and John Kerry, are the ones who are farthest behind Bush.

Now, incumbents always have an easier time raising money, that’s not news. It’s also not news that a GOP campaign has mastered the art of earning large-bucks contributions, since that’s been a Republican specialty for decades (indeed, Bill Clinton’s real innovation was being able to raise corporate money like he was a Republican). So Bush’s success on the chicken-dinner circuit is unsurprising.

The real story has been the emergence of a viable alternative to that circuit that, while not yet able to yield the same volume of cash as old-style fundraising, can yield enough to run a national campaign on — and, apparently, can yield far more for challengers (since traditional fundraising depends on appealing to interests that are inherently biased towards incumbents). The Post’s headline singles out Dean as a failure, while it should be singling out Edwards, Lieberman, and the rest for not picking up on that. Talk about missing the point.

Posted by Jason Lefkowitz at September 30, 2003
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