Saturday, January 20, 2007

Hillary or Obama (or somebody else)? Follow the money

Sure, I know it's January 2007, but now that Obama's formed an exploratory committee, and Hillary's anounced for president, the race is on.

And while a national poll out today shows Hillary with a substantial lead for the Democratic nomination, such polling is not really the best indicator of where the race stands.

For one thing national polling has little to do with the state nominating process, where things like John Edward's lead in the Iowa straw poll is every bit as important.

I also strongly suspect that Hillary's national poll rankings has much to with simple name recognition, especially given the way the question was asked in this particular poll:

24. (ASKED OF LEANED DEMOCRATS) If the 2008 Democratic presidential primary or caucus in your state were being held today, and the candidates were: (Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Barack Obama, John Kerry, Al Gore, Wesley Clark, Tom Vilsack, Bill Richardson, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, Dennis Kucinich, or Mike Gravel), for whom would you vote?

Given that grab bag list who would you choose?

The only three names with real national recognition on that list are Clinton, Kerry, and Gore. Kerry's a loser, as is (according to the Supreme Court) Gore, and Democrats are notoriously unforgiving of such. You might think Edwards would do better, but not only was he a failed candidate, he was a failed veep candidate and if few successful veeps really register with the public consciousness, how much more (less?) so does a failed one?

And while Obama might be the darling (or satan reincarnated of you're a winger) of the blogosphere and the elite media, he's had virtually no exposure as a national figure.

So if polls are virtually worthless, where does a politcal junkie go to figure out what's really going on?

Well, this being America, shouldn't the answer be obvious?

You follow the money.

That being the case you should keep an eye out for stories like this by Greg Sargent at TPM Cafe:

So I just got off the phone with a top Democratic donor, and he had some interesting things to say about the ways in which Barack Obama -- who obviously has far less of an established financial network than Hillary Clinton does -- is seeking to win over big money donors who might otherwise feel compelled to go with the former First Lady.

The Obama camp has a "light touch," which contrasts with the Clinton camp's somewhat more aggressive approach, this donor says.

According to this donor, Obama's fundraisers have been calling up established contributors and saying something along the lines of, "are you open to meeting with Obama?" or "Are you open to the idea of an Obama candidacy?"

"His people are being very respectful, very low key," this donor tells me. "The Hillary camp's message is, `I'm on my way to winning the nomination, line up with me.' Obama's is, `Hey, look, I'm the future, line up with me.' Obama's is more like, `Hey, we want you to be involved, not just to be an ATM machine.'"

To the winner of the donor wars may likely go the spoils.

And while the blogsphere is doing much to tweak the fundraising focus away from the usual corporate donors, still the money competition is a strong indicator of who is best positioned to compete, especially at this early stage of the game.

Though wouldn't it be nice if our political choices weren't quite so tightly bound with the ability to schmooze corporate donors?

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