The Best Election Money Can Buy

They say that money can’t buy happiness, but the Florida G.O.P. primary shows once again that it can buy elections. Unlike the early primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, winning Florida with its large and diverse population can not be accomplished by “retail campaigning.” It’s impossible to reach enough voters to make a difference by shaking hands and scheduled appearances. The only way to influence people is through the media, which means the more money, the more exposure.

After Newt Gingrich’s victory in South Carolina, one would have thought his momentum would have led to a surge in his numbers in Florida, another Southern state that elected a conservative Republican governor and senator in 2010. Indeed, Gingrich was ahead of Romney by 9 percentage points in Florida after his South Carolina win according to the Rasmussen Reports. However, massive spending on advertisements by the Romney campaign and the SuperPACs aligned with Romney, bombarded the airwaves with negative sound bites about Gingrich that transformed the outlook for the two candidates. As of January 29, the same Rasmussen poll had Romney leaving Gingrich in the dust, leading 44% to 28%, a stunning reversal in a short period of time.

But virtually unlimited funding can buy a lot of airtime on radio and TV, allowing Romney to constantly pound away at his opponent. ABC News has estimated that Romney and his SuperPACs have outspent Gingrich and his by a four to one ratio. And total spending by the two campaigns in Florida has been projected at over $22 million.

On local, network and cable TV stations, Romney ads have been appearing eight to ten times as frequently as those of Gingrich. Day after day, hour after hour, the Romney machine has blasted away at Gingrich, an unending stream of negative messages that have taken a toll on the former House Speaker. Gingrich has been called an influence peddler, his role with Freddie Mac highlighted, the $1.6 million he received in fees contrasted with the housing mess in Florida. His ethics problems while in Congress with the $300,000 fine have also been featured in numerous advertisements. To target the large Latino population, the reports that Gingrich had called Spanish the language of the ghetto were repeatedly emphasized in the Hispanic media. With the barrage of damaging portrayals of Gingrich saturating the airwaves, is it any wonder that his image as a smart electable conservative has been torn to shreds.

The Romney campaign’s funding advantage has also produced a far superior organization, with many more boots on the ground to do canvassing, make phone calls, hand out flyers, get supporters to the polls, etc.

The developments in Florida have certainly pacified the Republican establishment that was fearful of Gingrich’s ascendancy. While Romney’s winning of the Republican presidential nomination is not yet a foregone conclusion, he will be well on his way to victory after the Florida primary. When differences among the candidates on important issues are relatively minimal, it’s evident once more that the deciding factor is who has the deepest pockets. Unfortunately, even more money will be spent and more negativity spewed forth when the general election campaign commences.

Resurrecting Democracy

A VietNam vet and a Columbia history major who became a medical doctor, Bob Levine has watched the evolution of American politics over the past 40 years with increasing alarm. He knows he’s not alone. Partisan grid-lock, massive cash contributions and even more massive expenditures on lobbyists have undermined real democracy, and there is more than just a whiff of corruption emanating from Washington. If the nation is to overcome lockstep partisanship, restore growth to the economy and bring its debt under control, Levine argues that it will require a strong centrist third party to bring about the necessary reforms. Levine’s previous book, Shock Therapy For the American Health Care System took a realist approach to health care from a physician’s informed point of view; Resurrecting Democracy takes a similar pragmatic approach, putting aside ideology and taking a hard look at facts on the ground. In his latest book, Levine shines a light that cuts through the miasma of party propaganda and reactionary thinking, and reveals a new path for American politics. This post is cross posted from his blog.

www.robertlevinebooks.com

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Author: ROBERT A. LEVINE, TMV Guest Voice Columnist

Political junkie, Vietnam vet, neurologist- two books on aging and dementia. Last book on health care reform- Shock Therapy for the American Health Care System. New book on the need for a centrist third party- Resurrecting Democracy- A Citizen's Call for a Centrist Third Party- will be available early October 2011

  • zephyr

    Capitalism run amok, corporations are people, all the free speech money can buy, government by auction. Republicans are reaping what they sow. Unfortunately the rest of us often end up reaping what they sow as well.

  • dduck

    Can we sue for the “cruel and unusual punishment” for being bombarded day and night by TV and other media promos? Why not?

    Freedom of speech is one thing, but so is the right to enjoy our lives without constant “noise”. Most local governments ban “boom boxes”, isn’t the overload a mental (and possibly a physical) torture?
    We are supposed to be in pursuit of happiness, this stuff ain’t helpin.

  • The_Ohioan

    dd

    It’s like the old argument against porn. If you don’t like it, don’t look at it.

    But the true invasion of privacy are the robo-calls. When you are sleeping or sick they are a menace. Who wants to turn the ringer off and take the risk of missing a really important call?

    You’re right; there oughta be a law. :-)

  • RP

    I think there are a couple things we could do to fix some of the truths that are twisted and become lies on negative ads. Right now you can take anything anyone say, parse out the sound bite that makes for a negative ad and use only that part.
    1. Lets do away with campaign donation limits since any time the government makes a law, there are 100 lawyers working on a way around the law. Let anyone give the campaign any amount and then have the person running for the position have to defend those ads since their campaign paid for it. Do away with PACS!
    2. Lets make free speech really free speech. If you freely use the words of another in a campaign, require the words they used to be used in total and not just a piece of their words.
    3. And best of all, lets let the candidates do what Hamilton and Burr did when they were running for office. That way we have a winner and one less politician in Washington to put up with!!!

    But remeber, only those in the 10-15 states that mean something in the election will have to put up with the campaign ads during the general election. The rest of the states are already awarded to one candidate or the other, so you won’t have the constant crap to listen too like we will in swing states.

  • ShannonLeee

    “Hamilton and Burr”

    sounds great… or even better…

    put them all through “rehabilitation” from the movie Idiocracy.

  • PATRICK EDABURN, Assistant Editor

    If you think it is bad now just wait until Obama spends the one billion he plans to use this year…

  • zephyr

    “Who wants to turn the ringer off and take the risk of missing a really important call?”

    I do it all the time. I refuse to be a slave to the telephone. Leave a message, if it matters I’ll return the call. (yes, I know how 20th century that is)

    As for the dueling and/or Idiocracy rehabilitation for candidates? Heck yes! It makes at least as much sense as what they do now.

  • dduck

    Gee, thanks, Patrick, you just ruined my day. A billion bucks, wow, you could buy a lot of Jersey Shore DVDS with that.

  • The_Ohioan

    Patrick E

    Amen! Maybe a lot of that will be spent in organizing rather than ads?….maybe not.

  • The_Ohioan

    Z

    Your phone calls are evidently not as important as my phone calls. :-)

  • zephyr

    Ohioan, let’s just say the frequency of your “important” calls is greater than mine. ;-)

  • zephyr

    “Unfortunately, even more money will be spent and more negativity spewed forth when the general election campaign commences.”

    Thanks to our abysmally bad Supreme court the quote above is understatement. It’s gonna be an uglyfest the likes of which we’ve never seen. For all practical purposes the citizens are out of the picture..

    http://www.npr.org/2012/01/31/146137765/how-superpacs-are-gaming-the-2012-campaign

  • Rcoutme

    @RP–I do not live in a swing state, but I will have to deal with the ads. The reason: I live in New England and the ads will hit all of us due to the distribution of the airwaves.

    Also: allowing infinite amounts to be spent on campaigns is a stupid idea. It will only serve to reinforce a corporatocracy. It is sort of ironic that the Republican Party was originally the one that was looking to limit the influence of big business and super-wealthy individuals (See T. Roosevelt, for example). Now, the (originally) Southern Democrats have become Southern Republicans. I guess that they finally forgave the Republicans for Lincoln and Reconstruction.

    In the end, no one has proposed a system that would work and would not hinder personal liberties. This is one of those issues where the ‘mythical’ Founding Fathers didn’t have any idea what to do either.

  • bluebelle

    I don’t think Republicans mind reaping what they sow- since their candidates tend to be better funded by corporate money than the Dems.
    If you see this as a problem — which it is– why vote in another Republican whose eventual conservative SCOTUS picks will bring us more disasters like Citizens United???.
    I’m seeing the end of democracy as we know it and a surge towards corporate dominance of government.

  • bluebelle

    BTW the amount of money spent by the Super Pacs has gone up 1600% since 2008– that should give anyone pause.
    Newt’s pac money comes almost entirely from one man, Sheldon Adelson– a zionist who is antilabor. Is it any coincidence that Gingrich announced plans to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, declared the Palestinians an invented people and is blowing up the already tense situation between the US and Iran??

  • The_Ohioan

    Z

    Interesting link. It explains the MSM’s whoring (there’s probably a better word, but this seems accurate to me) for negative information which they can use to sell their stuff/fluff.

  • slamfu

    1600% !!! That is a staggering number. I hope the Supreme Court is proud of itself. Almost hard to imagine that Americans are 17x free speechier than they were just a few years ago! Good job SCOTUS, give yourselves a bonus.

  • zephyr

    Ohioan, I think your use of the word, “whoring” in that context is entirely appropriate. I remember when the MSM took their role in society seriously – which means they understood the responsibilities that went with their privileges. It was an honorable profession. From what I see anymore, this is no longer the case, especially when it comes to politics. Most “journalists” are fed information now, they don’t investigate.

    Bluebelle, it doesn’t seem so long ago I was arguing with folks on the right who claimed citizens united was no big deal and wouldn’t change campaigns all that much. At the time I wrote that off to either ignorance or disingenuousness. After this primary (and certainly after the coming election) I don’t expect to hear any more of that nonsense. Supreme Court appointments are reason enough to vote for Obama.