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President-elect Barack Obama brought in nearly $750 million for his presidential campaign, a record amount that exceeds what all of the candidates combined collected in private donations in the previous race for the White House, according to a report filed Thursday with the Federal Election Commission.

Underscoring the success of his fund-raising, Mr. Obama reported that he had nearly $30 million in the bank as of Nov. 24, despite spending furiously at the end of his campaign.

Mr. Obama, who became the first major-party nominee to bypass public financing since the system began in the 1970s, spent more than $136 million from Oct. 16 to Nov. 24, the period covered in the report. By comparison, his Republican opponent, Senator John McCain, who was limited to the $84 million allotted to him from the Treasury under public financing, spent $26.5 million during that time, according to his latest campaign finance report. Although Mr. McCain had $4 million left over, he had $4.9 million in debt, the report said.

Mr. Obama reported taking in $104 million in contributions. Assuming most of that money came in before Election Day, Nov. 4, it appears his fund-raising stepped up significantly as the campaign drew to a close. In the first half of October, he raised just $36 million.

An exact figure is difficult to calculate because of vagaries in the way fund-raising numbers are reported. But it appears that Mr. Obama raised over $300 million for the general election alone — more than triple what Mr. McCain had at his disposal from public financing.

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WASHINGTON — Sen. Joe Lieberman will keep his chairmanship of the Senate Homeland Security Committee despite hard feelings over his support for GOP nominee John McCain during the presidential campaign.

The Connecticut independent will lose a minor panel post as punishment for criticizing Obama this fall.

Lieberman’s colleagues in the Democratic caucus voted 42-13 Tuesday on a resolution condemning statements made by Lieberman during the campaign but allowing him to keep the Homeland Security Committee gavel. He loses an Environment and Public Works panel subcommittee chairmanship, however.

Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he was very angry by Lieberman’s actions but that “we’re looking forward, we’re not looking back.”

Added Reid: “Is this a time when we walk out of here and say, ‘Boy, did we get even?’” said Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Lieberman’s grasp on his chairmanship has gotten stronger since President-elect Barack Obama signaled to Democratic leaders that he’s not interested in punishing Lieberman for boosting McCain and criticizing Obama during the long campaign.

“This is the beginning of a new chapter, and I know that my colleagues in the Senate Democratic Caucus were moved not only by the kind words that Senator Reid said about my longtime record, but by the appeal from President-elect Obama himself that the nation now unite to confront our very serious problems,” Lieberman said after the vote.

Anger toward Lieberman seems to have softened since Election Day, and Democrats didn’t want to drive him from the Democratic caucus by taking away his chairmanship and send the wrong signals as Obama takes office on a pledge to unite the country. Lieberman had indicated it would be unacceptable for him to lose his chairmanship.

Lieberman, who was Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore’s running mate in 2000, was re-elected in 2006 as an independent after losing his state’s Democratic primary. He remains a registered Democrat and aligns with the party inside the Senate.

“It’s time to unite our country,” said Lieberman supporter Ken Salazar, D-Colo.

On the other side were senators who feel that one requirement to be installed in a leadership position is party loyalty.

“To reward Senator Lieberman with a major committee chairmanship would be a slap in the face of millions of Americans who worked tirelessly for Barack Obama and who want to see real change in our country,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said in a statement Friday. “Appointing someone to a major post who led the opposition to everything we are fighting for is not ‘change we can believe in.’”

Source: AP

Obama’s largest US rally

The real question should be does Barack Obama – represent a new politics? No doubt one that is more inclusive and forward thinking. That that many people could hear his message and believe it enough to turn out in numbers upwards of 1/4 million (some were turned away), in a country such as Germany, with its history in the last century – which could be held up as a lesson for us all – that were eager for a new message of hope and away from the things that divide us – and to build the future that if we work for and we believe in – we can have – could not have been an accident – as this type of change is no extravagance – its human kind saying we want something different – and we like what he is offering us.

Barack Obama will go on national television tonight and air a 30-minute infomercial about himself and his presidential campaign.

Several political image makers, both Republicans and Democrats, say it’s a smart move. But is there a risk of excess in it, as well?

While Obama hasn’t made many strategic mistakes in his campaign against Republican John McCain, he has, on occasion, shown a weakness for extravagance.

In July, Obama’s visits to Afghanistan and Iraq generated comforting images of the senator with military leaders and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. But his trip ended in Berlin with an image of 200,000 fans, mostly Europeans, chanting Obama’s name.

In August, his campaign navigated the minefield of the Democratic Party’s feuding families to pull off a convention that began healing the wounds between the Clinton and Obama camps. Then it came to its conclusion between two Greek columns where a triumphant Obama delivered an acceptance speech to a football stadium crowd of more than 80,000.

Today, Obama is dominating the television ad wars. As of Oct. 22, Obama placed 150% more ads than McCain in Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia, according to the Nielsen Co.

Despite all that, and despite his lead in national and most battleground polls, the campaign decided to plunk down between $3 and $5 million to buy half-hour blocks of time at 8 p.m. tonight on NBC, CBS, FOX, Univision, BET, MSNBC and TV One for delivery of his final argument to the voters.

Could it seem to some voters like overkill?

Republican political strategist Alex Castellanos says that it might. But even his advice is to go for it.

“It’s like football,” says Castellanos. “People may complain that a team is running up the score, but that team is still the one that wins.”

The Obama campaign scoffs at the idea that the infomercial is more luxury than necessity. This is, after all, a campaign scarred by its surprise loss in the New Hampshire primary after polls had shown double-digit leads.

On the campaign trail, Obama’s warnings against complacency are taking on increasingly urgent tones. He has vowed to finish the race on offense and the infomercial is a part of that strategy, say advisers.

“With this historic election only a week away – and John McCain’s angry, desperate attacks mounting by the day – we want to make sure every voter heading into the voting booth knows exactly what Barack Obama would do to bring about fundamental change as president,” a campaign statement noted.

Jim Jordan, a Democratic strategist, says the broadcast is timed to sway late breaking, undecided voters who can often tighten or determine a close race in the final days.

“There is a discrete segment of the electorate, primarily female, who are late deciders. They care about policy and elections, but they are very, very busy. They actively tune it out until the last week or ten days. Then they go and seek and acquire information,” he says.

The trick, of course, is getting them to watch rather than click away to ABC, the lone major network that won’t air the infomercial, or to some other Obama-free cable TV station.

Politicians have had mixed success at that in the past.

Before this year’s Super Tuesday primary, Democrat Hillary Clinton broadcast a live town hall meeting on the Hallmark Channel. It was watched by 540,000 households or about 705,000 viewers, according to the Nielsen ratings.

A better parallel to Obama’s strategy could be Independent candidate H. Ross Perot, who aired 15 infomercials in the 1992 presidential campaign.

Perot’s programs drew an average audience of 11.6 million viewers, or 4.6 percent of viewers nationwide, according to Nielsen. His one simulcast on ABC and CBS on Nov. 2, 1992 attracted 26 million viewers, Nielsen found.

Ken Goldstein, director of the Wisconsin Advertising Project, said Obama may not draw as large an audience as Perot.

“Ross Perot was sort of new on the scene. People hadn’t heard of him,” said Goldstein. “I’d be surprised if there are a lot of undecided eyes or passive viewers watching the Obama video. It could be a lot of Obama house parties.”

But Goldstein and Evan Tracey, founder of Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks political advertising, said the real benefit to Obama could be simply the attention the infomercial draws from the mainstream press.

“It probably locks up 24 hours of the news cycle,” said Tracey. “It’s going to suck a lot of oxygen out of the room.”

Adds Goldstein: “John McCain’s only chance is to disqualify Barack Obama. He has seven days. Every day that people are talking about Barack Obama’s infomercial is a day that John McCain isn’t getting his message out.”

The biggest risk in airing the infomercials, according to the strategists, is that Obama could irritate people by interrupting their regular television viewing habits.

Joe Lockhart, a Democratic strategist, says that is less of a risk today given the hundreds of television shows to watch at any given hour.

“If this was 30 years ago, you’d be running a big risk that people who don’t want to watch it would be mad,” says Lockhart.

“The benefit is you get to make your closing argument in a dramatic way without the filter of the media. It gives you more context and texture than a 30-second or 60-second ad,” he adds.

Mike Murphy, a Republican strategist who was once a McCain adviser, agrees. “I don’t see any risk at all,” he said in an e-mail. “I’ve been urging McCain high command to do a TV show too, but….”

McCain, of course, could air his own show. Under federal law, if he sought to buy equal time, the networks would be required to sell it to him.

His problem is money. Unlike Obama, who has collected more donations than any other general election presidential candidate, McCain would be forced to pull money from a battleground state in order to pay for the national infomercial.

It’s that imbalance in resources that might touch the overkill nerve in some viewers and voters.
But Goldstein can’t imagine such a worry is even a factor in the Obama camp.

“Campaigns tend not to worry about overkill,” he says. “Campaigns, by definition, are overkill.”

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