The Money Race: Further Debunking the Billion-Dollar Myth

A couple weeks ago, I debunked the myth that the Obama campaign had raised $1 billion — or that they even had much of an advantage over Romney, once you include party money and Super PACs.

Now it seems that even the prediction that they will eventually raise $1 billion is looking unlikely. According to the latest numbers, they are now behind where they were at this point in 2008, when they raised $750 million:

And the decline isn’t confined to one or two industries. It’s across the board:

It’s worth noting that the Republicans’ plans to eviscerate Medicare and Social Security have not been lost on retired donors, just as their anti-contraception, pro-invasive-vaginal-probe crusade has driven women further into the arms of the Obama campaign.

But those gains aren’t nearly enough to keep up with Republicans’ Super PACs:

“They clearly are feeling the pressure,” said one major Obama fund-raiser, who asked for anonymity to characterize his conversations with campaign officials. “They’re behind where they expected to be. You have to factor in $500 million-plus in Republican super PAC money.

On the other hand, the Obama campaign didn’t have to wage war in the primaries, so they have more cash on hand than they had in 2008. But that will dry up fast, and they’ll be left with a big hole to fill:

To raise as much money for his campaign as he did four years ago, the president would have to raise about $70 million a month through the end of the election cycle, more than triple the rate he has been bringing in cash so far.

So campaign spending will probably decline as a percent of GDP for this election, which isn’t surprising since 2008 was a little above the norm. Contrary to popular belief, however, 2008 was not the most expensive election ever, relative to the size of the economy:

So, while we’re debunking myths, we can add the “money has taken over presidential elections” myth to the list. The truth is that money was always important — even more so in 1896, 1908, 1932, and 1968. As I said last month:

Policy is made by the elite. Always has been.

You can overturn Citizens United. You can ban Super PACs. You can even institute public financing of elections. But you can’t take money out of politics.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t try. I’m saying this problem predates Super PACs. It goes so much deeper than lobbying and campaign contributions. The elite have always had the ear of Congress. They have always been Congress. They have always owned the media. They have always controlled the conversationAnd they do not speak for us.

What remains to be seen is how Super PACs will change this equation. Based on the numbers above, it looks like they’ll be almost as powerful as the campaigns themselves…