They say that money is the mother's milk of politics, and now that the field of Republican presidential hopefuls has solidified, the media has locked onto fundraising numbers as the primary means of measuring the viability of the candidates.
Not surprisingly, establishment favorite Mitt Romney is far and away the best funded candidate. Rick Perry is not far behind. Ron Paul – despite his alleged lack of broad appeal – has mastered the art of social-media driven, small donor-based fundraising. With several bad debate performances under his belt, Perry's star is fading fast, and the pundits argue that Ron Paul doesn't have the broad appeal to win the nomination. That leaves Romney as the presumptive "man to beat" heading into the primary season.
There are two points that are important to consider here. First, supporters of "underdog" candidates like Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, Michelle Bachmann, and others must be ready to match grassroots enthusiasm with tangible financial support. If these candidates are to compete effectively, they need money to get their message out and solidify a national campaign infrastructure. The media knows this, and this is why they are dubious about the possibility of any of these candidates making a serious grab for the nomination. The emergence of social media as a communications tool mitigates the money factor to some extent, but the fact remains that it is extremely difficult to gain national traction on a shoestring budget. The logistics of campaign travel alone cost hundreds of thousands, not to mention the costs of television, radio and print advertising, campaign materials, test polling, and the myriad other costs associated with running an effective campaign. Bottom line: in the modern American political milieu, money talks.
Having said this, the second point to be made is that the American people ought not allow the media to set the odds for the likelihood of success for any candidate this early in the game. At the end of the day, it is the voting public that gets to decide which candidate is best suited to represent the Republican Party in the next election. That the pundits have determined that Mitt Romney is the shoo-in nominee is not a cause for fatalism among those who would see a different candidate representing them in the battle to render Barack Obama a one-term president. One of the unique blessings of the American political system is that the citizens have multiple opportunities to contribute their voice to the conversation before the nomination is finalized. Simply jumping on the bandwagon of an establishment media darling is a surefire way to undermine the full potential of the American political process.
The moral of the story: Money may be the mother's milk of politics, but it ain't over til the fat lady sings, and she hasn't even begun warming up. There is a lot of time and a lot of opportunity for the American people to muster enthusiasm and financial viability for any number of candidates in the field. What they shouldn't do is throw in the towel and give up on their candidate based on the pontifications of the talking heads in Washington and New York City.
So, if you have a favorite candidate whom you would like to be your party's nominee, now is the time to roll up your sleeves, and roll out your checkbook. Your favorite candidate needs an investment of your time, effort, and money to win. Without contributing all three, chances are that your party's nominee will likely be somebody's favorite – just not your own.