Bad Spin

Matt Lewis
Posted: Oct 01, 2007 2:16 PM

As you've probably heard, John Edwards has decided to accept public financing.  While this gives his campaign some much-needed revenue, it also puts him at a disadvantage in terms of how much he can spend later, if his campaign were to catch fire (it's unlikely, but stranger things have happened) ...

What bothers me most is that rather than simply admiting he needs this influx of cash to keep his campaign afloat, Edwards had the audacity to try to"spin" the media into believing he was doing this because it's the right thing to do.  (Yeah, right).

Chris Cillizza of the WaPost's The Fix blog recently interviewed Edwards' advisor Joe Trippi about this very issue.  See, in the past, Trippi has argued that accepting public financing would leave any nominee "flat broke like Mike Dukakis -- getting the living #$#% kicked out of him all summer long."

Today, of course, Trippi is arguing that Edwards is smart to accept public financing ...

As any practitioner will tell you, the best spin is believable.  This is not, and thus, Cillizza responded with this analysis -- which hits the nail on the head:

Our take: Although the Edwards' campaign insists this decision was made voluntarily and not out of necessity, we find that somewhat hard to swallow. Edwards fell badly behind Clinton and Obama during the second fundraising quarter, a trend that seems likely to continue when the numbers for the last three months come out today.

It seems more likely that Edwards recognized he would never be able to compete with Obama and Clinton financially and, given that reality, sought to turn a negative into a positive. Edwards is hoping that his acceptance of public financing plays into voters' sense of him as a different kind of candidate and distinguishes him from Obama (the other "change" candidate in the race) and Clinton.

As much as voters tend to decry the influence of money in politics, however, poll after poll shows that almost no one makes their mind up based on where a candidate's campaign money comes from. And, in an election where Democratic voters seem ready to do almost anything to win back the White House, it's hard to imagine them backing a candidate who will have a hard cap on his spending between February and late August.

Well said ...

Update: 3:08 - Jonathan Martin makes the case that John McCain might want to consider the public financing option ...