Self-Financing Isn’t the Whole Deal In Elections

Not in Florida, at least:

Despite dumping record-breaking dollars into their maverick political campaigns, self-financed candidates Rick Scott and Jeff Greene trail their opponents heading into Tuesday’s primary, according to a new Mason-Dixon poll released late Saturday.

Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum now leads Scott 45-36 percent in the survey of likely Republican voters, reversing numbers that had him trailing the former hospital chain executive.

Democrat Kendrick Meek, the congressman from Miami, has opened up a 42-30 percent lead over Greene, the independently wealthy real estate mogul. Fresh off visits from President Obama and Bill Clinton this week, Meek shows strong support among the most reliable Democrats: African American voters, said Mason-Dixon pollster Brad Coker.

“Wealth helps, but it can only get you so far,” Coker said. “I still think a wealthy businessperson can win in Florida, but they have to have had strong ties to their local communities and charities.”

As campaigns get more and more expensive, the temptation for those of substantial net worth to use that to win elections becomes greater.  And the temptation of those who run against such people to gripe becomes greater to, as I noted a few months ago here re Tennessee’s Third District race:

the U.S. House Third District (TN) Republican candidate’s (Robin Smith’s) campaign manager lashes out against Mike Huckabee’s endorsement of her opponent:

“Given Huckabee’s history of denouncing candidates for office that contribute large sums of money to their campaigns in order to win elections, it is curious that he would choose to support the candidate who has ‘raised‘ 73% of his campaign funds from his back pocket.

She (Smith) reiterated the charge at the Hamilton County Pachyderm Club today, touting her own lack of resources and superior fund-raising ability.

As I said at the time, I think it’s disingenuous for Republicans to gripe about self-financed campaigns.  After all, aren’t we supposed to be about the politics of personal economic success?  Isn’t it our money?  Or are we going to slide into the politics of resentment?

In any case, although it’s very difficult to win an election without a great deal of money at your disposal, self-financing isn’t the automatic ticket to success.  As the Herald article noted, you still need to “press the flesh” and make personal contact with your constituencies.  Money isn’t everything, as Jon Corzine found out in NJ last year and Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina are finding out in their tough races in California.

It’s also interesting to note that self-financed candidates appear in both major parties.  The Florida statewide races have one of each and in each party, the Democrat (Jeff Greene) being from Palm Beach.  Home town pride put aside, I think those who still think of the Democrats as the “party of the people” better think again.

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