Candidates to turn in fundraising reports
Published 6:46 am Wednesday, February 3, 2010
By By Steve Flowers
This week marks a milestone in the young 2010 Governor’s Race. The year end campaign fundraising disclosure forms are due. Because of mailing delays the reports will begin trickling in this week. I will review them over the week and report my analysis of what the results portend. However, it will not take a rocket scientist to figure out the winners and losers. The candidates with the most money raised will be the favorites to win in November.
Money is the mother’s milk of politics. You cannot win without it. There is a direct correlation between money and victory. In 90 percents of all races the candidate who spends the most money wins.
By law, campaign fundraising began on June 3, 2009, one year prior to the primaries. The first reporting period ended December 31. The candidates have been dialing for dollars for seven months. We will see how they fared.
The maxim of money being the mother’s milk of politics has been around for decades. However, there is also another truism, money begets money. There are a good many deep pocket contributors awaiting the reports to see who the leaders are in the money chase. These contributors will get on the frontrunner’s bandwagon. These fundraising reports will more or less separate the wheat from the chaff because in politics money talks and everything else walks.
In 2006, all of the major races were decided by money. The Republican judicial candidates outspent their Democratic opponents over 2 to 1. Gov. Bob Riley outspent challenger Lucy Baxley by over 4 to 1. That disparity is hard to overcome.
Although it is sad but true, the days of one on one politicking, shaking hands and asking for someone’s vote are over. Nowadays you rarely meet a gubernatorial or congressional candidate. They are packaged and sold like a detergent or new car by slick television ads.
If someone came to me today and asked me to advise him or her on whether they should be a candidate for governor or congress, I would look at two traits. First, does that person have the dedication and tenacity to spend 8 to 10 hours per day on the phone begging for money. Gubernatorial and congressional candidates must be persistent salesmen and beggars and not take no for an answer. Secondly, do they have an attractive appearance and smile. It would be a shame to raise tons of money and have it backfire because you bought ads that made people vote against you because you did not come across well on television.
I am convinced this happened in 2006. The Republican candidate for Chief Justice, Drayton Nabers, outspent Democrat Sue Bell Cobb over 2 to 1. I truly believe that when voters saw Nabers on television they were so turned off that they could not bring themselves to vote for him. If you have a candidate like that you hide them and do not put them on television.
This worked in 1992 when an unknown businessman named Terry Everett decided to run for congress in the 2nd District. He was hoping to follow movie star look alike Congressman Bill Dickinson. Everett, besides being unknown, was extremely short, unattractive and tongue tied. He could hardly say his name much less make a speech. However, he had made millions buying and selling newspapers so Everett gave a Washington public relations firm $1 million to elect him to congress. They watched him campaign for about a week, then pulled him aside and told him to hide because if the voters saw him they would not vote for him. Everett agreed to stay out of sight. He was elected by abstention.
Money gives all incumbent congressmen such an inherent insurmountable advantage that 98 percent nationwide are reelected. They build resilient name identification and 90 percent of all PAC contributions are garnered by incumbents. Name identification is all important in congressional races.
One of the funniest movies I have ever seen is “Distinguished Gentleman” staring Eddie Murphy. In the movie, Murphy is a conman. An incumbent Congressman Jeff Johnson dies during the campaign and Murphy has the same name so he qualifies and wins without ever showing his face.
There have been real instances where congressmen have died during the campaign and still gotten elected. It happened a few years ago in a crucial U.S. Senate race in Missouri.
The moral of this story is that in today’s politics, money is not only the mother’s milk of politics, it is everything.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in 75 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the State Legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us <http://www.steveflowers.us/> .