One of the debates shaping up between the McCain camp and the Obama campaign is whether the two candidates should take public financing. Obama signed a statement last year in which he stated that if the Republican candidate took public financing, so would he. McCain, who is at a tremendous fundraising disadvantage compared to Obama, has already said he would take such financing. Obama, however, who has shown a potential to raise literally hundreds of millions of dollars, is balking.
McCain intends to use Obama's reluctance to now take public financing if both of them are the nominees as a campaign issue. The media will help him. The reason why the media will help him is that the less candidates have to spend on their campaigns, the more important the media becomes. This is because if they had less money for paid media to get out their message, the more Obama and McCain would have to rely on free media. Free media, in the form of newspaper articles and electronic broadcasts, are controlled by the large corporations that dominate our nation's media. So it is not just their civic duty that leads news corporations such as the Washington Post to demand that Obama take public financing.
Obama is trying out a new argument to justify not taking public financing. He is pointing out that the Internet has created a whole new system of "public" financing because relatively small donors can help candidates raise millions of dollars online. This is a good argument, but there is a better one.
Obama should simply say that he is not going to allow the Republicans to "swift-boat" him like they did John Kerry. If they try, he is going to have the resources and the will to fight back. Then, he ought to point out how Fox News used the whole controversy over Rev. Wright's comments in a sermon given a relatively long time ago to attack his patriotism. He could also point out that given the reluctance of the American news media to denounce lies spread by other media organizations, he has to have enough money to beat back such attacks. When asked what has changed since he signed the agreement last year, he can point to Fox's coverage of the whole Rev. Wright situation.
Now, that also won't convince the news media, but we think it sounds better to the average voter and also makes the media aware of its own complicity in such attacks. One thing that he cannot do is give in to the pressure to accept public financing. Democrats are going to need every advantage they can get to beat John McCain, especially given his support among the news media.