Posted on | September 10, 2012 | 14 Comments
August was not yet over when word got around during the Republican convention in Tampa that Romney and the GOP had raised more than $100 million in August — their third consecutive month of nine-digit fundraising. The Democrats had nothing to say in reply at that time. You could hear the crickets chirping at Obama HQ in Chicago.
OK, so overnight the Romney campaign announced a specific figure — $111.6 million — for August and immediately the Democrats answered with the claim that they’d raised $114 million, resulting in a blitz of headlines like this:
Obama beats Romney
in August fundraising
— Washington Post
Obama fundraising edges
out Romney in August
— CBS News
This news contributes to the sense of a shift toward Obama, but permit me to offer an important caveat: We won’t get the official Federal Election Commission reports for another 10 days, and the official numbers on those reports may add up to different totals than those announced by the two campaigns. There isn’t any law that requires campaigns to tell the truth in their public statements about fundraising, and if you think Democrats wouldn’t fudge the numbers in order to gain a 10-day advantage in the media narrative of the campaign, you have a far higher estimate of Democrat probity than I do.
Be that as it may, however, even if we take the total fundraising numbers at face value, there remains the question of “burn rate.”
Ever since May, we’ve seen the Democrats burning through campaign cash faster than they can bring it in. The Obama campaign has built a very expensive infrastructure, with high fixed costs for staff salaries, and they launched an early ad blitz this summer in key swing states, at a time when the Romney campaign was hoarding its resources in preparation for the fall season. Ed Morrissey at Hot Air calls our attention to this detail from a Politico reporter:
Romney’s campaign, including the RNC and state parties it raises money through, have about $168.5 million cash on hand. The Obama camp has not announced how much they have.
Right. Some readers may remember how angry I got toward the Gingrich campaign in March, when Newt was acting like he was still Mitt’s chief GOP rival at a time when it was obvious to me — and to any experienced observer — that his campaign’s burn rate was out of control and that they were running up huge debts with no chance to win, thereby hurting Santorum’s chance to stop Romney.
Manipulating perceptions is part of the game in politics, largely because so many people are swayed by bandwagon psychology and susceptible to confirmation bias, believing what they want to believe. If you aren’t braced to expect these manipulations, you can be misled. This was why the Romney campaign felt obliged to issue a warning against panic in the face of the post-convention media blitz suggesting that Obama’s already won the election. And this was also why I felt the need to remind readers of a campaign that faced an even worse blitz of slanted media coverage:
Sixty-four days remain in the 2012 presidential campaign. Election Day is nine weeks from tomorrow, both party conventions are now in the rearview mirror, and Mitt Romney’s uphill battle to unseat President Obama has reached its most crucial phase. Everything that happened before today was merely prelude to this, the heart of the fall campaign season, and no “expert” can confidently predict today what the final result will be on November 6.
These basic facts are important to establish at the outset of any discussion of the current state of the race, because there are many influential people who would like you to believe that the outcome of the election has somehow already been determined, and that they have clairvoyant insight on what that outcome will be. But why bring Nate Silver into this?
Silver is the poll-analyzing guru of the New York Times, whose reputation as a wizard was developed in crunching baseball statistics before being applied to political campaigns. On Saturday afternoon, Silver published an analysis which asserted that Obama now has a nearly 80 percent chance of winning the election, with 317 Electoral College votes and 52 percent of the popular vote. All of which is very interesting — and very important, if true.
However, baseball isn’t politics, and public-opinion polls are not batting averages or on-base percentages or any other such metric of past performance. Readers of Michael Lewis’s bestseller Moneyball may appreciate this distinction, especially if they have any extensive experience in following polls and election campaigns. For myself, to cite just one example, I recall the Sunday in October 2010 when I arrived in New York’s 25th Congressional District and was greeted by a Syracuse Post-Standard headline proclaiming that Democrat Rep. Dan Maffei had opened up a 12-point lead over Republican challenger Ann Marie Buerkle with barely two weeks remaining until Election Day. There was a mood of grim determination at the Buerkle campaign events I attended that Sunday and Monday, and I was far from certain that she could pull off an upset. On Election Night, the vote was “too close to call” and it was only after an extended recount that Buerkle was declared the winner — two days before Thanksgiving — by a margin of fewer than 600 votes. . . .