Cheapest GOP Primary in Decade Defies Forecast
Even as experts predict that the 2012 presidential race will be the most expensive in U.S. history, a funny thing is happening on the way to the Republican nomination: It’s becoming one of the cheapest primaries in a more than a decade.
The top nine Republican candidates spent $53 million through September, compared with $132 million spent at the same time four years ago. The sum is even lower than totals reported during the same period in the 2004 and 2000 primaries — when most candidates still were abiding by campaign spending limits in order to receive public matching money.
In the crowded Democratic primary in 2004, the candidates had spent $58 million through Sept. 30, 2003. Four years earlier, a primary field of 10 Republican candidates had spent $68 million in the first three quarters of 1999.
One major difference is a profusion of televised debates — 11 so far — negating the need for costly commercials.
“The debates and the daily drama of the Republican presidential primary are the new TV,” said Ken Goldstein, president of Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group in Arlington, Virginia.
The spending slump is having an effect on the campaign trail. Advertising in the first two states to hold contests, Iowa and New Hampshire, has plummeted 75 percent. And candidates who have barely registered in what’s sometimes called “the money primary” are vaulting into the lead.
Imagine if each party arranged their primaries similar to this year’s GOP contest. The candidates agree to limits on campaign spending and in exchange, the party arranges and pays for a series of debates, forums and one-on-one interviews that give each candidate equal time and treatment.
Rather than spending all their time fundraising from fat cats, the candidates spend time talking policy in front of voters.
There would be a few bugs to work out, like deciding who should and shouldn’t be included in process. It would be voluntary, and any candidate who didn’t want to participate (or wasn’t allowed to) would still be free to fundraise and spend the traditional way.
Now obviously this wouldn’t apply to an incumbent running for reelection. But at least one party every four years has an open primary. In 2008 it was both parties.
I know what you’re thinking – it makes too much sense.
But it would work.