April 14, 2008

A Peculiar Request From A Politician

Appeals to party unity are always pretty much pure bullshit. So why is John McCain asking his supporters to raise money for Rudy Giuliani? Really, he is. He wants Hizzonner to have retired all of his campaign debt so that "...we can move forward with everyone spending 100% of their time helping to get John McCain in the White House ... The time Rudy Giuliani has to spend raising money to pay down his debt is time he could be spending raising money and reaching out to voters for us."

Campaign debts normally just sit out there and never get collected on. Vendors like poster-printers, television stations, hotels, and bus companies know when they do business with campaigns that, in part, they're betting on the campaign being a winner. Hillary Clinton, for instance, has had to pay cash on the barrelhead for several months now, where Obama's credit has been good (and he's proved his creditworthiness, too). The candidates try and raise some money now and again, but it's very difficult to get people to give money to a campaign that's already lost.

But here's the part that's really odd. Giuliani's campaign, although strategically a massive failure, was quite powerful from a fundraising perspective. It continues to report $4 million dollars cash on hand and only $3.1 million in debts. That means that it's liquid and does not need McCain's help to retire the debt, if the leadership of the campaign decides to even do that (which would be wise, all things considered, but it is technically speaking optional).

So what gives? Why is McCain asking Republican donors to give money to a failed rival campaign that doesn't need the money in the first place? Two theories present themselves -- first, maybe McCain is thinking about Giuliani as a running mate; second, maybe McCain can get the balance of the campaign dollars transferred to himself under the name of "party unity" after engaging in debt-retiring fundraising for his former rival.

I've thought for a while that Rudy Giuliani was simply not a viable choice for John McCain as his running mate. McCain is still viewed with suspicion by the right wing of the party, who have had to console themselves with the idea that Obama is infinitely worse than anything that McCain might do -- and some of them have made what must seem like a devil's bargain and switched their support to Hillary the Huntress. McCain needs to pick a Veep who is palatable to the right wing of the party while he personally appeals to the more moderate Republicans and reaches out into the great, decisive mass of centrist voters who will sway the critical states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Florida. Giuliani as his running-mate puts states like North Carolina, Tennessee, and Montana in play for the Democrats and carries no significant advantages because Giuliani can't even deliver New York (maybe he could if he were on top of the ticket and weren't running against Hillary, but he won't be).

So if McCain isn't laundering a running mate, why would he throw his own campaign money after Giuliani, for a net gain of $900,000 in transferred funds, and some campaign time with a former rival? Admittedly, these two had a nice mutual admiration society during the intramural debates, so maybe this is just a genuine gesture of respect and thanks for Giuliani's early endorsement, or thanks for his having conceded New Hampshire to McCain, irretrievably torpedoing his own shot at the top.

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