INSIDE THE BELTWAY: In political campaigns money talks - or does it? The issues speak louder than dollar signs

Those of us in the lobbying business (now politely translating into ’public affairs’) may be about to witness a tectonic shift in political values. Before our very eyes, George W. Bush slides precipitously in political polls matched against candidates in both parties. As a result, the accepted standard of fundraising as the measure of popularity may be eroding.

Those of us in the lobbying business (now politely translating into ’public affairs’) may be about to witness a tectonic shift in political values. Before our very eyes, George W. Bush slides precipitously in political polls matched against candidates in both parties. As a result, the accepted standard of fundraising as the measure of popularity may be eroding.

Those of us in the lobbying business (now politely translating into

’public affairs’) may be about to witness a tectonic shift in political

values. Before our very eyes, George W. Bush slides precipitously in

political polls matched against candidates in both parties. As a result,

the accepted standard of fundraising as the measure of popularity may be

eroding.



For all of this year, the nomination and election of Bush has been

regularly conceded as virtually inevitable with each successive report

of campaign contributions.



As Republicans, anxious for a ’winner,’ continue to pour money into the

Bush campaign, and as despairing GOP rivals continue to drop out of the

race (using the Bush money advantage as an excuse to avoid conceding

their own unpopularity), pundits continue to concede the race to Bush

and to emphasize the crucial role of campaign funding.



Lamar Alexander, Dan Quayle and Elizabeth Dole all claimed, ’It’s the

money,’ when they dropped out. Who was the political correspondent brave

enough to say, ’No, you just ran a terrible campaign - hardly anyone

wanted you,’ when it was so much easier to cite George W’s sixty (or

seventy or eighty) million dollars?



Alas, no one remembered John Connally, the last Texas governor to amass

a huge war chest only to discover - when the voting began - that no one

wanted him either. His campaign fund of dollars 6 million, huge by 1980

standards, yielded one delegate as the primaries rolled on, and earned

him only the derisive title of the ’Six Million Dollar Man’ (based on

that popular TV show).



Now the polls have yielded a sharp drop for Bush, not only against

either of the two contending Democrats but also when matched with his

major GOP opponent, John McCain.



What this tells Washington PR types who often go to the Hill (and to

fundraisers) to cultivate Administration and agency officials, and who

thus care mightily about which party will control the next House and

Senate and who will appoint the judges, is once again to ignore the

conventional wisdom.



Money alone, we are learning again, is not power. Successful campaigns

require an ability to convince, persuade and even inspire; politics

still rewards the candidates with the best ideas (or for that matter,

any ideas at all), the most popular positions on issues of real concern

to the voters, and, above all, a sense of leadership.



Watch the Bush people start to downplay the contribution totals and the

endorsements and begin to talk about issues and management, and be

prepared to embarrass the pundits if the nominees turn out to be Bradley

and McCain.



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