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Signs of the upcoming elections are everywhere; it would be more
accurate to say that vote-for-me signs are everywhere. I’m talking
about the signs that have the candidates’ names on them. If you’re
paying attention while driving around you can’t help but notice
them. These signs generate votes in two ways; they provide name
recognition and a group identity. I’m not against signs, but I hope
people will look beyond mere advertising when they are trying to
decide who deserves their vote.
Signs of the upcoming elections are everywhere; it would be more accurate to say that vote-for-me signs are everywhere. I’m talking about the signs that have the candidates’ names on them. If you’re paying attention while driving around you can’t help but notice them. These signs generate votes in two ways; they provide name recognition and a group identity. I’m not against signs, but I hope people will look beyond mere advertising when they are trying to decide who deserves their vote.

Unfortunately, almost all the sophisticated campaigns at the national level are just souped up versions of vote-for-me signs. The campaigns may not educate, but they’re certainly expensive enough. The amount of money raised and spent by the current group of presidential hopefuls is truly staggering. With the dropouts, it totals $865 million as of the end of March. Here is where they stand in the money race (numbers are rounded).

Sen. Barack Obama was the clear leader in all categories; he had raised more, spent more and had owed less than anyone else still in the race. Obama’s campaign raised $235 million, spent $184 million and had a debt of only $600,000. He had $51 million cash on hand just in case he wanted to send out for pizza.

Sen. Hillary Clinton was the debt champion; her campaign owed somebody a lot of money. Clinton’s campaign raised $189 million, spent $157 million and had a debt of $15 million. If her supporters had ordered pizza, they probably had to use a two-for-one coupon because she only had $32 million cash on hand.

Sen. John McCain sewed up his candidacy early so his supporters put their wallets away. He hopes they can find them before the general election rolls around. McCain’s campaign raised $77 million, spent $65 million and had a debt of $707,000. His $12 million cash on hand made him look like the poor relation in this group.

Among the “wannabes” who have already dropped out, Mitt Romney did best with $104 million, followed by Rudy Giuliani at $58 million and John Edwards at $52 million. Do you remember Bill Richardson’s campaign? It raised $23 million. Even Tom Tancredo, whoever he is, raised $8 million.

I never head of him. I guess that just goes to show how $8 million doesn’t buy what it used to.

Unlike so many others, I’m not in favor of limiting campaign spending. First, it would just kill the economy. How do you replace all the jobs generated by the billion dollars we will spend on political propaganda before this election is over? This must be what the candidates mean when the say they have a jobs program.

Second, it would make it harder for some folks to get rich. Many of the major political donors look upon the money they give presidential candidates as investments, not contributions, and they expect to get it all back in spades. It always amazes me how some people can go into relatively low-paying political jobs at the federal level and come out rich. Getting a federal patronage job must bestow some sort of magic investment knowledge on the appointee – everything they touch suddenly turns to gold.

One reason these contests are so expensive is that they are so long. From the first primary until Election Day will be 10 months; that’s more than 20 percent of a full presidential term. The average human gestation period is nine months, but somehow it takes all of that plus another month plus a billion dollars to select someone for political office. I never heard a good argument that long campaigns produce better results, but I did hear someone ask who was watching the store while so many senators were out running for president.

Finally, I’m against campaign spending limits because spending a billion dollars on TV ads, robocalls, balloons, confetti and campaign advisers instead of educating the electorate about the complex issues we face is stupid, and if you do something stupid, you should suffer the consequences to teach you a lesson. In this case, the consequences are the never-ending acts of our political circus.

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.

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