Richardson and the money game: does it matter?

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Via Ezra, here are some of Joe Klein’s thoughts on the “money” primary:

I think that [money is] less important than it’s been in recent campaign cycles for several reasons. I mean, why do politicians feel compelled to raise gazillions? To buy television advertising, mostly negative…Negative advertising, which was used overwhelmingly by Republicans, didn’t seem all that effective in 2006, which may be a sign of things to come. Of course, candidates do need to raise some money–the Democrats’ ability to respond cleverly to Republican trash was an important aspect of their 2006 victory–but they don’t need to raise as much as they think they need to raise.

Second, I think the perambulations of various money people–Bob Farmer, for example–are less important than they used to be. I’m far more interested in money raised on the web as a thermometer for what’s going on in a campaign.

Ezra adds this:

That’s all true, at least so far as the primary election goes. Competing in Iowa and New Hampshire just isn’t that costly an exercise, remember where Dean’s millions got him. Better, candidates who excel in either testing ground will find their coffers full by lunchtime the next day — particularly given the internet’s capacity for accelerating and absorbing funder excitement.

That said, if California does move up to February 5th, money becomes significantly more important. A few days ago, I opposed the primary move for just that reason. A few other bloggers (Kevin and Atrios, I think?) suggested that, in fact, what the Golden State would test were the real operative skills of modern campaigners — media control, fundraising ability, and telegenicism. But while a California primary may let Obama, Clinton, or even Edwards demonstrate their media savvy, it won’t do the same for potentially adept candidates the press hasn’t already decided to cover. If a candidate expertly dodges a question, but no reporter was there to hear it, did he even make a sound?

This may indeed be the biggest hurdle for Bill Richardson: a big state moving its primary forward (for more, see Heath’s piece on the subject). However, if the Kleins are right, maybe money won’t be such a concern.

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