Raise your hand if you didn't see this coming. Is there really a sizable group of people (who have been paying attention) that are surprised by Obama opting out of the public financing system for the general election? I'd imagine there aren't that many folks out there with raised hands. Let's put the shoe on the other foot for a minute. If the roles were reversed and McCain was the candidate who had made the choice to skip out on the public financing system, would the uproar be as big? Well, that's hard to say, but McCain likely could be counted on to have been a bit more disciplined than to make such a promise in the first place. That may be the difference. Sports blogger, Dan Shanoff, is fond of stating in instances of sports meets crime that it is the cover up that gets someone in trouble and not the crime itself. In politics, the game is slightly different. It isn't the decision that gets you in trouble, but the flip-flop instead. That is the case here. The uproar isn't over the decision to fund the campaign outside of the public financing system itself, but rather the promise and subsequent change.
Even then, is it really about the flip-flop? Or could it be that the GOP and its supporters are genuinely concerned about their chances in the fall? That's understandable. On the one hand, all the leading indicators signal a down year for the party of Lincoln. The economy has seen better days, support for the Iraq war remains low, and President Bush is fighting a weekly battle against setting records for new approval rating lows. So there's that, and now the Democratic nominee is going to have a money advantage too! What does that extra cash mean to Obama? Well, for once, a Democratic nominee will be the one with a cash advantage. It doesn't happen often. But that money advantage won't necessarily translate into more votes for the junior senator from Illinois. What it likely means is that McCain, who is already playing defense in a difficult environment for anyone with an R by their name, will be even more on the defensive.
Ads will surely be a part of the Obama camp's strategy (they already are), but grassroots efforts in seemingly unlikely states could be a part of the equation as well. Extra cash means Obama can make McCain play defense (eg: spend time and money) in states he probably wouldn't want to. Take Alaska, for instance. The polling that was out there yesterday continued to show a close race (at least for Alaska!) between McCain and Obama. If Obama can force McCain to defend Alaska, then keeping Kerry swing state wins like Pennsylvania or New Hampshire safe gets much easier. The good folks over at fivethirtyeight.com are already discussing the pros and cons of an Obama trip to the Last Frontier.
And that is the origin of the excitement on the left end of the blogosphere (some may argue there is only a left end) and the backlash on the right. This decision to opt out isn't the real issue. The fear of having to defend or delight in potentially being competitive in typically red states is the issue. Democrats should enjoy being the monied party for once because it won't last. What was it Bush said? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice...well, you won't fool me again. The GOP will certainly heed that advice and store this memory away to be used in a less hostile environment.
The Electoral College Map (6/18/08)
Idaho Final Tally: 79.5% of Vote, 83.3% of Delegates
The Electoral College Map (6/15/08)