The Buying of the Presidency 2008

Barack Obama is well on his way to buying the Presidency. The effect of  Obama's financial advantage has  now even been admitted by the New York Times,  whose editors and political writers already may be lighting up their victory cigars, like Red Auerbach, the Celtics coach of legend.

The state where the Obama campaign has been carpet bombing the airwaves most vigorously this past weekend was West Virginia
.  If you watched TV over the weekend in the Mountaineer State, you could not have missed the Obama ads -- an extraordinary buy of $1.2 million per day for 5 days, with ads running in every media market in the state. The McCain campaign, had it spent all of its $84 million for the general election on TV ads, would have had $1.4 million to spend per day for campaign ads for the last two months for all 50 states. Obama has just spent almost that much per day in one state with fewer than 2 million people and but 5 Electoral College votes. 

In every battleground state the story is the same.  Obama has run ads 3 to 4 times as often as McCain and the gap is widening each week. Most of the Obama ads, of course, are negative ads about McCain, and in most cases false or misleading according to  It is as if one basketball team is playing with a rule that its players foul out after committing 2 personal fouls, while and its opponent is allowed six personal fouls  per player.  Or maybe one basket is two feet lower, or one team can not include any player over six feet tall.

In essence, we do not have a fair fight. Obama has always liked it that way when it comes to his campaigns.  Obama said at one point that if the McCain campaign brought "a knife to the fight, we would bring a gun" -- revealing that he did not care about a level playing field . Anyone familiar with his campaign against Alice Palmer  in 1996, where he used challenges to nominating petitions to completely eliminate all his challengers in the Democratic primary for the Illinois State Senate, should have realized this aspect of Obama's campaign style. Michael Barone's "The Coming Obama Thugocracy" describes Obama's effort to silence critics. And of course, there were the revelations by the Chicago Tribune of two messy divorce scandals relating to Obama's opponents in the U.S. Senate  race in 2004:  the first  served to eliminate Blair Hull, who held a solid lead over Obama in the race for the Democratic nomination before the story broke, and the other forced Jack Ryan, the GOP nominee,  from the race.  Did Obama or his campaign have a role in supplying damaging information to the media about these stories (Obama's campaign manger once worked for the Tribune), or is he just the luckiest politician alive?

Both the Obama campaign and its volunteer army in the national media are quite comfortable with all of this, since it is producing the result they desire. Senator Obama had the audacity a few weeks back to argue that he has shown that he is an experienced manager (and so presumably, he will be a good President) because he has run such a large successful campaign with over 2,500 paid employees and spending of several hundred million dollars (likely to be over $700 million by the time the election occurs). Obama is right about part of his statement;  he has shown that he can spend more money and spend it faster than any candidate in the history of the world. He must see it as appropriate for someone whose coming election victory an event that will change the world.

Viewed through the other end of the telescope, Obama spends so much because he has raised so much. Over half of that money has come from fat cats, such as the few hundred people who gave his campaign, the DNC, and state parties $11 million in one night in Hollywood last month.  Among small individual donors, about whom far less is known, there have been questions raised about some of the donors, and sources. Mr. Good Will, for instance, has given multiple donations totaling over $17,000 (the limit for an individual donor in a  cycle is $2300 for the primary campaign, and $2300 for the general election). Any donation of $200 or more requires a form to be completed. Mr. Good Will gave many times but always less than the level requiring more personal information.

In the concluding two weeks of the campaign money could become a bigger issue, as people get frustrated by what they may rightly perceive as both the potential theft of the election in some states and the purchase of the Presidency.  The poll movement has been away from Obama the last few days, with his national lead of about 8% dropping a few points in most surveys. My best guess is Obama's national lead is about 5% today. That is not yet a done deal, though Obama clearly remains a heavy favorite to win. Perhaps. those reports about the big victory party planned for Chicago may be a bit premature.

During the primaries, despite outspending Hillary Clinton by 2 to 1 or 4 to 1 in states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, Clinton still won those battles. Maybe at some point, voters will tune out the flood of ad messages and the selling of Obama by the national media, and decide for themselves. One thing is clear: Obama has shown how much he likes to spend by how he has run this campaign ,. This is a foretaste of his presidency should he be elected    . Repeat the phrase "tax and spend", and you will get a good sense of what an Obama Presidency would be like. If a candidate can spend on a Presidential campaign more than double what any other campaign in history has ever spent before, think of what the size of the federal government will look like after one or two terms of an Obama presidency.  

All that government spending will not be paid for by raising taxes only on the "rich", so far defined by Obama as those earning over $250,000 a year. Unless Obama is lying (now that would be new) he has said he would balance the budget in a few years. That will be impossible with all his new proposed spending, including the new welfare programs that he mislabels as tax cuts for the 44% of Americans who do not  now earn enough to pay federal income tax (thanks to the Bush tax cuts) .  Balancing the budget will require him to greatly broaden the category of "rich" people who need to be taxed more, but Obama will tell you not to mind, because it is "fair".  Maybe a year from now the definition of "rich" becomes $150,000 , and two years from now $100,000, and by the end of his term, $75,000.  What we know is that to pay for all his promises, Obama will need to find many more people to tax much more heavily so he can "spread the wealth around."

How a candidate runs his campaign is an important indicator of the character of the man or woman we  may elect. In the case of Obama, the evidence is that he is a very skillful, ambitious, and driven candidate, and also a very, very cynical and dishonest one.  What Obama says means very little. He is after all a clever lawyer. We have had a recent experience with a very smart lawyer as President and how he parsed words. In Obama's case, the lies have been pretty blatant, despite the best spinning efforts by the campaign.

It is not his words, but what Obama does that matters.  And right now, Barack Obama is trying to buy the Presidency, and it looks like he is succeeding. 

Richard Baehr is chief political correspondent of American Thinker.