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How can Clark win?

Dean opted out of the campaign finance reform law because its cap on fund raising would have meant that this spring, even though he’d raised the maximum allowed, he’d be out of money. He might have the nomination sewn up, but he’d have to sit on his hands as Karl Rove spends $150M against him, right up through the Democratic Convention in August. What candidate could survive that type of blitz?

So, let’s say Gen. Clark wins enough primaries to become the nominee. Clark has opted into the campaign finance reform law, so he’ll be out of money in March. Or maybe in May. Either way, how is he going to win the general election? What is the Clark strategy for winning? Does anyone know?

(If you tell me that blogs will enable a candidate to withstand a $150M negative TV campaign, I will ask you to send me a sample of what you’re smoking.)

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9 Responses to “How can Clark win?”

  1. David,

    It will be a sad day if the only metric for winning an election is money — very old school “broadcast politics”. If raw money is the metric, then the Neo-con political culture gets another 4 years to do its work.

    The answer is that people energized by ideas, words, pictures, music, art and perhaps a compelling vision for a greater future, can and will beat money. We did it in 18th century and we can do it again in the 21st century.

    History shows that other “revolutions” have also triumphed over better funded opponents.

    The Neo-con’s politics of fear can be trumped by a Democratic politics of courage.

  2. The only way Clark can win is to do something different, here is what I think he should do:

    1.) Stop thinking like a candidate – he doesn’t have the money to compete with Bush or Dean, so he’ll lose if he tries to fight fire with fire. He needs to fight fire with water…

    2.) Clark just got $3.7 million in matching funds, right? Take that and break it down into $100,000 blocks of money. Create the Wesley Clark Innovation Grant and give one away every week from now until the end of October.

    3.) Brand his camapaign around Innovation. Say something like: Innovation made this country great, and Innovation will ensure our future as the best economy in the world. Innovation creates jobs, not politicians.

    4.) Every week, when he is awarding a new grant, he is seen as having a long-term impact on this country – not just running for president.

    5.) Reposition the other guys to show that they are money wasting politicians who are doing nothing better than spending money on negative ads. That way, every time one of them does this, he is reinforcing his message – that would stop the $150 negative TV blitz you mention.

    BTW: This works for any of the candidates, not just Clark – but since you asked how he can win…


  3. Jock, I don’t often disagree with you (and, for the record, I have learned a huge amount from you…thank you!) but this time I do.

    The one thesis of the Cluetrain Manifesto that I’ve always disagreed with is the one that says “Advertising doesn’t work.” The Net has an effect on advertising — in particular, we can fact check its ass — but so long as people think that Coke is the original and Pepsi the imitator, or even that Santa wears red and white, I think we have to say that advertising works. So, you have one candidate who goes dark on TV and another who is drilling his “message” into people’s lobes twice an hour. I just don’t believe that Clark or Dean or Santa could survive that.

    So, yes, it is a sad day. Money isn’t the only metric, of course, but it is a metric. That’s why Karl Rove is raising $150B and that’s why Dennis Kucinich doesn’t have a chance in hell of getting nominated. (Not to mention Carol Moseley Who??)

    Jock, are you willing to say that being broke in March is even a bit of a disadvantage? That it bears on electability?

  4. David,

    Thank you for the compliment. Let me reciprocate.

    Judo. Use Bush’s money against him. As I told Trippi last Spring, turn every dollar that Bush raises into another nail in his coffin. Hope that Bush raises even more.

    If you do not try to go head to head with Bush in advertising wars, you do not have to go broke in March. It really does not matter who you are, if you let Bush pick the field, the terms, and the time of battle you lose. Rove’s strategy is to pick the field, the terms and the time of battle.

    A campaign built around and dependent upon carpet bombing by broadcast advertisements will be won by Bush. So we have to create a different field, new terms and control the time of our battle.

    And yes, advertising does work and should be used creatively to advance the campaign to reject the Neo-con culture. It is simply one of the tools in the tool kit.

    The question is who can pull together the largest coalition to allow us to control this process? What can we learn from “asymmetric warfare” or from the success of the Viet Cong? How did our rabble defeat the British and reject the unsavory alliance of the East India Company and the British Crown? What innovations allowed us to successful?

  5. I claim ignorance. But I have to admit I will sink to a new level of dispair if it really is true that opting out of the campaign finance reform limits is a necessary condition of becoming president. I guess I just wasn’t aware of that.

    But I wonder, regardless of money, how Dean can weather the television ads orchestrated by Rove:

    “Terrorism, terrorism, terrorism. 9-11, 9-11, 9-11. We caught Saddam! By the way, Dean is for Saddam and gay marriage! (Paid for by Decent Folks Against Kicking Puppies.)”

    I guess I am also dispairing of My Fellow American’s ability to appreciate the no doubt subtler arguments put forth by the Dean campaign. You know, the political messages which do not make naked appeals to either greed or fear. At least Clark is both left of Atilla the Hun and can defend himself in terms of national security/commander-in-cheif questions. I’ve taken quite a turn since 2000 when I voted out of idealism. Now I’m all about pragmatism.

  6. Agreed that it is a terribly frightening state of affairs that essentially the one with the most money is most likely to win, or has greater odds. When you take into account that most of that money goes to television ads, you start to wonder about such things as propaganda, reality distortion fields, manufactured concent (to pull out some much maligned but useful terms).

    But something else is just as frightening: when you think that with their limited funds, every second the democrat candidates spend fighting each other for the nomination, they are spending money they will need to fight the republicans in the general. Since at this point Dean is the only one with enough money, and the infrastructure in place to get more, to even give it a decent go, it is downright treason to the democratic party to go on in-fighting! Clark et all should swallow their prides, back Dean AND give him what’s left of their budgets so he can go on and fight the good fight.

    Extreme? Heck yes. Unreasonable? No. Will it happen? Nope.

  7. Scott, I am afraid that opting out of campaign finance reform really is a condition for competing against an incumbent president who has opted out and who is on track to raise a quarter billion dollars. As for whether Dean can weather the Rove attack ads: Who knows? IMO, Dean’s feisty enough and, if nominated, Dean will be able to neutralize the obvious perceived weak spots. It’s the non-obvious ones that worry me no matter who is nominated. Do you really think that Rove is going to be kinder to Clark or whomever?

    Boris, personally I’d hate to see candidates cede the nomination before any votes are cast, although they should be careful not to hammer one another so hard that come nomination time nothing is left but pulp.

  8. Why do not I see me posts???

  9. Morgages are fun!

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