Thursday, March 4, 2010

How To Set $50 Million Ablaze

Linda McMahon, co-founder of WWE, says she is prepared to spend $50 million in order to win the race for Chris Dodd's Senate seat.

Save your money, Linda. You're doomed. And it has nothing to do with the fact that you're currently double-digits down, minimum, on everyone in your path.

It also has nothing to do with the fact that there is footage galore of the company you help run being populated by people with stage names like 'Mr. Ass' and 'Sexual Chocolate', a midget with a shillelagh, a guy whose finishing move is backing you up against the turnbuckle and rubbing his fat, thonged ass in your face, and a guy named 'Muhammad Hassan' who prayed after a match involving his partner, followed by a bunch of guys in masks dressed in all black attacking the Undertaker with piano wire. Which aired on the WWE show, Smackdown!, the day of the London bombings. After the bombings.

Although surely nothing can go wrong with that. Linda, if I were your opponent, that'd be the very first thing I pulled for an ad. I would just run a 30-second version of the Smackdown! clip and say "This aired on national television a couple hours after the London bombings. Linda McMahon signed off on this at some point."

But no, that's not why you're doomed, at least for our purposes.

You're doomed because you've openly declared your intent to buy the race. The political arena is littered with the corpses of people with more money than political acumen that thought they could swoop in, openly wonder how much is that elective office in the window, and wound up frog-marched right back out of the arena before they knew what the hell. Steve Forbes and Michael Bloomberg come to mind.

Certainly, it is possible to buy an election. To pretend otherwise would be naive. But money is not the be-all end-all. Money doesn't vote. People vote. And people don't like being told that someone intends to buy them, that they're going to vote for you because you will spend a bunch of money to make them vote for you.

There is also the concept of voter buy-in to consider. Self-financing a campaign is one thing, but it tells you nothing about how well the message you're sending with that money is being recieved. However, if people like you enough to give you THEIR money, that tells you something. Someone likes your message. Someone's willing to put some skin in the game to get you into office. Someone with $50 million from their own pocket and $2,500 from voters is going to get crushed by someone with $2,500 from their own pocket and $50 million from voters.

It's like gold-farming in World of Warcraft: sure, you have the gold, but you don't have the experience or connections that you were supposed to get alongside that gold along the way, something that tends to quickly become apparent.

$50 million may be the Senate race equivalent of a Lamborghini, but to paraphrase an old Onion article, a Lamborghini still isn't fast enough if you don't know how to shift. And openly declaring your intent to buy the race with $50 million is equivalent to pouring a gallon of maple syrup in the radiator. And then flinging the Lamborghini into a mountain via trebuchet. All the money in the world can't paper over that soundbite.


Pinyan said...

I question your use of Michael Bloomberg as an example. I don't know that he was ever really going to try to run for president. The only office he's earnestly tried to buy--NYC mayor--he not only bought twice, but he then changed the rules to enable himself to buy it a third time.

Aaron Allermann said...

Did he announce his intention to buy it, though? That's the difference. If you just up and dump the money into the race, that's one thing. If you start openly touting your warchest before you've started spending it, that's what I'm talking about here.

But we could also go to Donald Trump as a replacement name, who made an abortive Reform Party run in 2000 and is pretty much going to be automatically seen as trying to buy it even if he isn't.