Is Obama’s Primary Money Enough?

Andrew Rice writes in with an interesting take on my story today about the Obama campaign’s efforts to assure concerned supporters that only early voting primary states matter, even as Hillary seems to be pulling away.

Here’s Rice. 


One quick thing: Obama’s raised $75 million for the primaries so far. I think it’s highly debatable that that amount is going to allow them to compete in 25 states, as his spokesman says. Say that a competitive statewide race these days costs $8-10 million, based on what people like Webb and McCaskill spent in their last Senate race. Even supposing that a brief, intense presidential primary campaign is cheaper (debatable, I think, since most Senate candidates don’t advertise intensively until the end anyway, and the ground stuff will presumably cost much more since a primary candidate can’t count on a party apparatus to pick up some of the tab). You have much larger overhead costs for the expense of running a national operation. I don’t see how $75-$100 million gets you into the game in more than 8-10 states, if that. Say you win half of those races–a really good percentage. Four or five states doesn’t get you the nomination. With the race so jam-packed together this time around, even the best-financed candidates are going to have to rely on free media and other non-traditional methods to get to voters.

“I wonder whether the real story of this primary campaign won’t end up being that frontloading neutralized the comparative advantage traditionally enjoyed by big fund-raisers. Stuff like name recognition and Q ratings might matter much more in a “national” primary. And that could be good news for candidates like John McCain or John Edwards, both of whom have been out there before. I wonder if the migration that that the Obama people predict might not go to the other way, from the unknown quantity to the known ones, Hillary and Edwards. I also wonder if frontloading might make it possible for someone like Al Gore to enter the race very late in the game–the barrage of free media coverage that would accompany his announcement would dwarf anything that any other candidate could buy.”