Despite his previous pledge to enter into the public financing system should he be the Democratic presidential nominee, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., has recently been reluctant to re-commit to entering the system.I think Obama assumes two things: one, the success of his primary fundraising will falter in the general election, as people whose spirit is willing but wallets faltering run out of money, and he has to rely then on assumption number two, that he'll gobble up the lion's share of Hillary's donor base in the general election.
This reluctance has coincided with his primary, caucus, and fundraising successes. For that reluctance, Obama has been hammered as hypocritical by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., not to mention impartial observers.
Tonight at a fundraiser in Washington, D.C., at the National Museum of Women in the Arts -- at a $2,300-per-person event for 200 people held before a $1,000-per-person reception for 350 people -- Obama previewed his argument to justify this possible future discarding of a principle.
"We have created a parallel public financing system where the American people decide if they want to support a campaign they can get on the Internet and finance it, and they will have as much access and influence over the course and direction of our campaign that has traditionally been reserved for the wealthy and the powerful," Obama said.
You know, fat cat money.
His first assumption, that people will flat out run out of money, is spot on. Already, his monthly totals have plateaued, and even slipped, comparatively speaking. As the economy falters further and people start getting laid off and can't find work, his well runs drier each day.
Admittedly, with Super Tuesday being so early in the cycle, this is slightly skewed, but I think I'm not far off in the fund-raising activity area. Already, I'm getting money calls from Obama's campaign, and they know I'm in Hillary's camp.
His second assumption is dicey. It really depends on whether party loyalty and a dislike for McCain will translate into keeping Democrats, particularly traditional "Reagan Democrats Who've Got Bucks", in line. Given how hard he's hammered Hillary, and how close all three candidates are on so many issues (absent Iraq), it's not hard to see how people might defect.
Should both assumptions hold true, then we should expect Obama to raise an awful lot of money. If even the first assumption is untrue (not likely) and the second assumption is true (likely), he's going to outraise both party candidates from the 2004 general election.
However, if the nightmare scenario I've postulated-- first assumption true, second assumption untrue-- arises, Obama will be in deeply serious goo if he turns his back on his pledge.
A pledge is a promise. If he betrays that promise, and then it explodes in his face, it will be a long time before he can show up on the national scene again. He can betray that pledge by just raising money, lots of it, from people who will smell a chance to own a piece of a President.
But that's not going to sit well with the starry-eyed dreamers who have flocked to his candidacy in the forlorn and futile hope that somehow, a deeply ambitious, more ambitious than any other politico in history, politician would be "different".