I think there are still enough voters out there willing to give Obama a pass knowing that the economic mess he confronted as president was one he inherited, not one that occurred under his watch. More people still blame George W Bush than blame Obama. We think that’s part of it.
Another thing that may be operating to Obama’s favour is the fact that, in this day and age, political partisans in the United States are extremely loyal, much more so than they were maybe 30 or 40 years ago. So Obama’s approval rating among Democrats is extraordinarily high. If you go back to 1979 or 1980, Democratic loyalty to Jimmy Carter was much, much lower. He was losing not only substantial portions of Republicans and independents but he was also losing a lot of Democrats, and Obama just hasn’t been doing that. It may be that we’ve entered an era in which it takes a heck of a lot to dislodge a partisan and lead them to actually disapprove of their party’s president or of their party’s presidential candidate. Ultimately, we think that’s kind of an irony because Obama campaigned in 2008 as a candidate who wanted to rise above these forces of partisanship; he said that there’s no red America and no blue America, there’s only an America. But his poll numbers have been buoyed precisely by the blue America that he didn’t want to represent exclusively.Which would seem to point to Romney's best chance to change the game being to change the blame...to the dime store socialism of Barack Obama. But, how to do that when Obama can outspend you;
Obama has been raising a lot of money personally for his campaign. Romney has been doing that, but doing less, raising less for his personal campaign. Romney has been supported by a large amount of spending that’s been done in coordination with the Republican party. The Democratic party’s been raising money too, but not in quite as large an amount. Romney’s been supported in particular by independent groups that can raise and spend money to support a candidate, but they cannot coordinate their efforts with that candidate in any way. There are a number of these groups, they’ve existed in many forms in American politics for a long time but they’ve come to the fore in the last two election cycles. By and large those groups are much more well funded on the Republican side than on the Democratic side.
I think that initially people feared that those groups would be able to raise so much money that they could raise unlimited amounts, so you’d have millionaires and billionaires giving huge sums of money to these groups that they cannot give to the candidates under current law. They thought that these groups were going to bury the landscape. It hasn’t quite panned out that way, and there are a couple of things that work. One is that Obama’s campaign message might be strengthened by the fact that he’s doing his own fundraising, and in some sense he’s able to control how that money is being spent. He’s able to control the message. If you’re dependent on independent groups to raise money and spend it on your behalf then you’re also making their decisions as opposed to your decisions.
The other thing is that candidates actually get discounts for the advertising that they buy, as a way to facilitate the ability of candidates to reach voters and inform voters even though they have to pay for it themselves, as opposed to elections in many other countries. Independent groups don’t have those same benefits, so they might be spending five or six times what a candidate spends for the exact same advertising time in the exact same place at the exact same time of day. Ultimately for the last few weeks, somewhat surprisingly, the Democrats have been out-advertising the Republicans in the presidential race, combining Obama’s spending, Democratic spending and independent groups’ spending against Romney, the Republicans and their independent groups.
We’ve still got six or seven weeks to go and that could change between now and then, and it’s not a bad idea to husband your resources and spend them at the end when their impact might be greater in the sense that the impact of the ads will be felt and it will wear off by the time the election comes about. But at this stage of the game I don’t think that the worst scenarios of people who fear the role of money in this election have come to pass.