Number Narratives

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The big campaign money story to come out of tonight's Iowa caucuses may be the contest between Republicans Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee. Romney has vastly out-raised and out-spent Huckabee, but polls give Huckabee the edge on public support in Iowa. What are the implications of a contest between these two kinds of candidates for a larger debate on the wealth primary?

Susan Milligan at the Boston Globe lays out the money dynamic at this stage:

Romney's operation "is basically a business plan. Romney has been willing to spend whatever it takes to win," said Anthony Corrado, a campaign finance specialist at Colby College in Maine.

Huckabee is relying heavily on "on-the-ground enthusiasm" and help from religious groups, Corrado said.

Campaign finance and political specialists say that cash is still critically important to competing beyond the early caucus and primary states, particularly this year, when a front-loaded primary schedule is forcing candidates to campaign in more than two dozen states by Feb. 5.

But in Iowa, where voters are more likely to make up their minds based on meeting candidates in person or watching them in debates, Huckabee is showing that a low-funded contender has a chance to succeed.

As the race moves beyond Iowa, a money disadvantage will become a greater limiter but perhaps advance discussion on the media narrative of "candidate viability" that so often rests on the money wars.

Our Nancy Watzman in her latest article for Huffington Post's Off the Bus speculates on the narratives that will emerge following the results from Iowa. An underfunded candidate's success may boost his fundraising -- but would it be enough to cover an eight-figure gap and this year's tight primary calendar?

With an 80 percent increase in 2007 from the amount of money raised in all of 2003, we're well on our way to a $1 billion presidential election. Unless there's a change, in the future candidates will have to rely more and more on well-connected campaign bundlers, personal wealth, and the wealthy elite to finance their campaigns.