It is always interesting to me how much stock most give early polls, while paying very little attention to an aspect of campaigning that most will tell you is most important - fundraising. Lately, most polls show indications that we should expect to see strong gains at the national level for Republicans in both chambers of the house, as well as the office of President. However, let me remind you of a few key things, and hopefully energize you to remain engaged and involved.
Just for laughs, I will use the "fun to have fun with" Howard Dean to prove this point. How many of you remember that in 2004, Howard Dean led for some time in the democrat primary, and at this point in the process, most thought he would indeed be the democratic nominee. Of course, had it not been for this post election "scream", he might have been. Of course, that doesn't have anything to do with money, right? Well, most attribute his decline to that speech, but actually, the direct impact of the speech was on his ability to raise funds. See, early in 2004, Dean was leading in fundraising and even set new standards for Democrats. However, after the speech, all of a sudden, the big donors lost confidence and stopped giving money to him. I am not suggesting that the speech also cost him votes, but I am certain that his potential for winning was diminished more by not having enough money, then by the voters response to seeing that speech.
Hopefully, this will help to illustrate, again, the importance of a campaign being financially stable as well as mentally stable (in Dean's case). As a result, there is reason to be concerned. Currently, the Republicans are losing to their counterparts in this very important aspect of campaigning. According to article by USA Today, the DCCC has out-raised the RNCC by 40%.
As a result of this, there are three very important responses that I want to suggest.
- If you care - donate! Too many times, those of us who say we are "involved" in politics, don't give. A key principle to "involvement", when you have invested, you are involved. Not everyone can give in great amounts, but I am shocked at how few give at all. If you really want to make a difference, donate!
- Don't be complacent! Too often, we watch news that feeds us what we want to hear, and feel good about it. However, I think it is equally important to pay attention (if not more important) to what the opposing view is. Adding to this, just because it sounds good, doesn't mean it will end good. Don't forget that Bush 41 entered the race to hold the presidency with the highest approval rating of any incumbent in the history of tracking, and lost to a guy that few had ever heard of before.
- Candidates need to improve fundraising! This is by far the most important. Most people don't feel comfortable asking for money, but if you want to win an election - you better work at it. Have a plan, and work daily to execute the plan. I remember during the last cycle that I was talking with a congressional candidate from the Boston area, and he was trying to decide if he should hire me to consult with his team, or hire an outside strategist. Unfortunately, he chose the latter, and never had a fully funded campaign. If you don't have a "supply-side" plan, the strategy won't matter, because you won't be able to implement it. Lastly, one of the people I respect most in campaign work, Pat Rosenstiel said this, "I have met many candidates who wanted to be elected, but I haven't met one who got wasn't successful in raising money."