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Tom Vilsack dropped out of the race for President today.

I was not a fan of Tom Vilsack, he was a good man, and I hear, from my Iowa sources, a good governor. But he was not particularly inspiring, and I never considered lending him my support.

But I do regret his decision to leave the race. Tom Vilsack was the only serious candidate advocating for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq and a cutoff of funding for the war by Congress. He was the only one committed to a carbon-neutral campaign for President, and the candidate with probably the most comprehensive understanding of energy policy, his pet policy.

He couldn't continue the race because of money. With more than two-thirds of the state either already moved up or planning to move up their primaries and caucuses to a six week window between January 1st and February 15th, you would need approximately $50 million cash on hand in January 2008 and probably having raised over $100 million by 2008 to be truly competitive for the nomination.

These are absurd amounts of money, and they rise exponentially each cycle, with the money increasingly going into television advertising that has been proven to have less and less effect on fewer and fewer voters each cycle.

This presidential race is a mess. We need to completely reform the way we run campaigns and hold elections in this country, and we need to do it now.

We need to make some new laws that reform our system, but more importantly, we need to have politicans and political professionals change the way they do business. We need to stop using television advertising. We need to spread out the primary calendar, by having both parties agree to a new timeframe. We need to focus more on real debate, about real ideas and policies and stop having useless debates with time limits and rules.

We've lost our politics, and in a lot of ways, the American soul. If good guys like Tom Vilsack can't run for President because they can't raise the money, then we have a problem. McCain-Feingold was a disaster. We need a public financing system that requires candidates to use a limited amount of taxpayer money and reduces the costs of campaigns. If we need to pass a constitutional amendment to do it, then so be it, but we cannot keep doing what we're doing.

Fifty years ago, candidates for Congress could upset long-term incumbents with $50,000 in today's dollars. Now, you need at least $2 million bucks. That's not right.

The internet provides a new, low-cost method for candidates to use to get their message out. Candidates should use it more and rely on it more to promote themselves and use television less, considering that most people, because of TiVo or Cable or just a general tuning out of commercials really won't be affected by TV ads anymore. For God's sake, most people under the age of 30 barely watch actual television anymore, I know that I basically watch all my TV shows on the internet.

And I really hope that the Clinton, Obama, Edwards, Richardson, Dodd, and Biden campaigns can mutually agree to raise and spend less than $50 million total over the next year. It's just not a fair fight when Clinton and Obama have $100 million and Edwards has $70 million dollars and Richardson, Biden, and Dodd have only $20 million. That's just not a contest anymore.

Give me your suggestions on how to fix the system.


Rach C said...

well said, adam. well said.

Pam said...

For God's sake, most people under the age of 30 barely watch actual television anymore, I know that I basically watch all my TV shows on the internet.

Yes. This is the reason I am excited about Obama's integration with the internet -- he's moving out on a limb, experimenting with social technologies. Those technologies

a) are cheap (it's the internet! and they already have webspace! and webspace is *nothing* compared to television spots!),

b) are where the people are (I watch very little TV, myself...)

c) encourage real investment in the campaign, which leads to stronger and deeper free grassroots efforts.

If I had $100 million, I don't think I'd spend all that much of it on television. A bit, of course, enough to be competitive with other candidates who are using television -- but more than that? You won't get any more returns, you'll just annoy people. Point them to a website where they get to build their own content and where they convince others to visit and where they feel invested, and you'll win without annoying anyone.

*off soapbox*