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Comments by YACCS
Friday, August 29, 2003

Another column on why Dean's money matters

Howard Dean has a lot of cash.

More cash than any Democratic candidate has ever had.

What makes Dean's operation so formidable?

He has found a way to get cheap money.

In any campaign, most of the time and effort is devoted to holding fundraisers. So you have the candidate run from pillar to post meeting executives and movie people and begging for cash. He has to bend the ear of a lot of people. This process takes months and inflicts a bunch of rubber chicken (or in Bush's case, hot dogs and burgers) on people. So you don't get much strategy from campaigns during the fundraising period.

By collecting so much money on the web, Dean can start to focus on Bush as a target, Not just in speeches, but on TV. He can go to tv early and stay there. Which is a tremendous advantage. Not only that, but it costs him almost nothing to get that money from the web. So he's spending pennies per dollar raised. It gives him the flexibility to move around the country and stay visible. His people, knowing that the web allows them to raise money, raise it quickly and raise it cheaply, can plot to run campaign swings like the Sleepless Summer Tour.

What has to scare the other campaigns is that with Dean estimated to raise $10.3m in a normally dormant 3Q, they have no way of knowing how much he can raise in the far more active 4Q. He could easily raise double that as his profile grows.

That money means he can pay staff, not go into debt and run TV ads. He can also target his pitches to the money people carefully. He doesn't have to keep hitting them up. He can go to them and say "we've raised X percentage from online fundraising, we have a popular message". When he goes to Hollywood, people can already see that he's got money coming in. When he goes to Wall Street, he can say the same thing. He won't have to beg them for last minute cash either.

What this does is make it hard to give to other campaigns and forestalls late entries. Because it sends two messages. One, this Dean guy has a lot of support. Why should we give to you instead of him. Two, he has such a money lead and such an efficient way of getting it, how can you match it? The Dean money machine is starting to choke off support to every other candidate. Kerry is doing the best, but it's because of his resume. Gephardt's problem is that he's getting mercy support, but Dean union support is growing. Unions have to be wondering if Gephardt is a ticket to nowhere. A lot of the union activists have to wonder if backing Dean now might serve them well in 2005. Graham, Edwards and Lieberman are being choked off by a lack of cash and exposure.

Why does Dean have such a lead in fundraising?

He bet against the war. Simple as that. And as the war goes south, he benefits. Even if we stablize Iraq, Dean's skepticism has been validated. Lieberman, who still truly supports the war, has been sliding towards oblivion. You won't read that in the papers, but the race so far has turned into a national security refendum and Dean is winning it handily. The only reason Clark would even consider entering the race, and the Dean money lead has frozen him in place, is because of the same issues. Unfortunately for him, there is so little daylight between him and Dean on these issues, his resume is the only outstanding factor in his favor.

The reason people need to pay attention to the money is that is what the pros do. Howard Dean may be your average doctor, well-meaning, slightly arrogant and bossy, but he's an above average fundraiser. Which has caught everyone by surprise.

posted by Steve @ 10:04:00 AM

10:04:00 AM

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