White House Bid Could Cost Winner $400 Million in 2008
Thomas B. Edsall and Chris Cillizza front today’s WaPo with a report that the “entry fee” for the 2008 presidential race will be $100 million.
The reason? The “gradual breakdown of the public funding system” that we saw beginning in the last cycle.
President Bush and Democratic nominee John F. Kerry decided then to do without public matching funds in the nominating phase of the campaign — money that came with a requirement to limit spending to just $44.7 million each. They went on to raise $274.7 million and $253 million, respectively, before accepting public funding for the general election campaign in the fall. Their success established what many strategists believe will be a new norm in presidential politics.
What’s more, many analysts believe that 2008 will be a clash of such titanic intensity that the nominees will reject public funding — and the spending limits that govern it — even for the fall campaign. If so, most bets are that each major-party candidate would need to raise in excess of $400 million by the Nov. 4, 2008, election. Candidates would want to raise as much of that money as early as possible, so as not to waste precious campaign time holding fundraisers.
Those amounts are staggering. Still, some perspective is warranted.
A single 30-second ad for this year’s Super Bowl sold for $2.5 million to $2.6 million. So, a successful White House bid would cost the equivalent of 40 of those spots for each Super Bowl during the four years the winner holds the office. And that’s locking in today’s prices!
The Census Bureau estimates the current population of the United States at 298,278,139. That means the winning candidate will have to spend $1.34 to reach every man, woman, and child he will govern.
Given the stakes, the real question seems clear: Why are we doing our politics on the cheap?