Axelrod Savings?

We were beginning to calculate what Freddy could do with the $50,000-a-month the departures of Axelrod and Clanton will save him (maintain a quarter-share of a Gulfstream V; pay Kirk Kerkorian’s child-support) when we learned that the details of the Axelrod contract mean the campaign may not be saving that much after all.

Traditionally, ad men like the Chicago-based Axelrod take a percentage of the total “buy,” the amount paid to television stations to show the ads. Increasingly, however, that’s seen as giving those admen — who often double as strategic advisors — an incentive to push candidates to spend too much money on TV. (See: Dean, Howard.) So campaigns are shifting toward a monthly fee, like Axelrod’s $35,000, in lieu of a percentage.

That was the arrangement Axelrod had with Freddy for the Democratic primary. In a sense, those retainers — by our count, Axelrod got something between $105,000 and $140,000 — were prepayments on ads that never got cut.

But now, Freddy will have to hire a new TV guru. And it may be harder to offer a monthly retainer for just a couple of months of work. So he may wind up paying a percentage of the buy and, in effect, paying twice for the same ads. The extra costs may be marginal, but in what is increasingly looking like a close race, small things may matter.

Alternately, the prospect of uncapped general election largesse may keep those primary costs down. But with spending limited in the primary (the cap is $5,728,000), this kind of stuff can matter in a close race.