Where are the Boats?


I’ve always felt that, baring some major upheaval or campaign mishap, Barack Obama was unelectable. My belief that he was unelectable was based on the expectation that voters would have the relevant information, and that it would be provided by a Swift Boat style information campaign. For some reason, that campaign has never materialized.

Independent political groups, some of which made big splashes in the 2004 race, are playing reduced roles in this year’s presidential campaign. With three-plus weeks to go, there’s less money pouring into nasty negative television advertising from outside groups than in 2004, and much of the activity is directed toward narrow niches in the electorate.

Where are they? is what I’d like to know. Barack is much more vulnerable to this sort of attack than Kerry was, and the Swift Boaters managed to beat Kerry. Are you telling me that we’re going to reach November 4 without people understanding that Reverend Wright wasn’t a unique character in Barack’s past – that he’s part of a radical clique who made Barack a political player in Chicago politics?

The 527 was the weapon of choice for many activists in 2004, when major donors wrote multimillion-dollar checks to underwrite advertising and organizing efforts of groups that spent a combined $434 million on federal campaigns, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research group. As of July this year, 527s had spent about $156 million, the center reports. New reports are due later this month.

Some believe that a shift in how money is raised for presidential elections explains the lack of an organized effort like we saw four years ago.

The highest-profile 527s in 2004 were the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which spent about $22 million attacking Democrat John F. Kerry’s record in the Vietnam War; Progress for America, which spent about $45 million, much of it on a memorable ad in which a girl, whose mother was killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, praised President Bush; and The Media Fund and America Coming Together, a related group that spent about $136 million on TV ads and field operations in support of Kerry.

But it seems that there must be a different feeling about this election amongst the big money donors and conservative activists – perhaps a dislike of John McCain?

After McCain-Feingold banned unlimited large donations, or soft money, by corporations and labor unions, multimillionaire activists stepped in and underwrote most of the independent groups that were active in 2004.

That was also the year the Internet began to transform political fund-raising, which Obama has taken to new levels of success. “In the soft-money years, a lot of big checks written by corporations weren’t given particularly willingly,” said Jim Jordan, a Democratic political consultant who played a leading role in America Coming Together and The Media Fund four years ago.

“McCain-Feingold didn’t take money out of politics but it got powerful politicians out of the loop of raising big checks,” Jordan said.

Lay some “God-damn America,” on the American people, combined with some “I’ve never been proud of my country,” with some Bill Ayers and Rev Pfleger and “I’m not going to put that pin on my chest,” and I still say that Barack is unelectable – even with the financial meltdown.

One Response to “Where are the Boats?”

  1. 1 Anonymous


    Unfortunately, the GOP nominated a candidate that wants to run a “respectful” campaign, as if he’s running against some token opponent for his Senate seat in Arizona after two decades of holding the seat.

    John McCain refuses to even bring up “G-D Ameri-K-K-K of A” Wright. Ayers is certainly worthy of discussion, but isn’t Wright an even easier hole to let Barack be sunk into?

    Perhaps if my GOP had nominated a guy who looked a day under 150, and was willing to fight (or better yet, a woman like Sarah Palin), we’d be better off.

    My 401k has nicely gained back some of its loss over the past couple weeks as of today’s market close.

    I think it may be approaching the time we stop blaming market conditions, or even McCain’s campaign staff, and start blaming the problem: John McCain.

    You and I and other talk radio hosts and listeners and bloggers are the swiftboats; the 2004 models are permanently moored.

    -Joe from Brighton

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