The Corner

The Obama Campaign’s ‘Investments’

I keep hearing defenders and even objective analysts saying that the Obama campaign’s financial “burn rate” isn’t that big a problem because the Obama campaign is making long term “strategic investments” in “infrastructure” that will pay off down the road (Sound familiar?). Here’s Obama campaign press secretary Ben Labolt: “Since we knew from the outset that Republican super PACs would likely outspend us on the air, we made a decision to invest early in building the largest grassroots campaign in history so that our supporters could engage in 500 days of persuasion with their networks.”

I have three responses to this. First: “We’ll see.” Investments can only be verified as wise when they pay off.

Second, I’m not sure it’s even true. If you look at what the Obama campaign is spending on, it’s not immediately apparent it’s even spending a lot on all of this infrastructure stuff. It’s certainly not true that all of the campaign’s deficit spending is the result of anything other than ad-buys.

In July, Obama for America took in $49.1 million and spent $59 million. Of that, Obama spent more than $48 million on advertising (more than double Romney’s expenditures). The breakdown: $39 million on conventional ad buys and $8.7 million on online ads; $2.9 million on payroll, $1.2 million on payroll taxes (!), and $900,000 on polling.

While I am sure the Obama campaign has invested spent a lot of money on things that can be described as “infrastructure” — lots of campaigns do. But that doesn’t explain the high burn rate. Which gets me to the last point. This explanation is largely spin. It changes the subject from Obama’s massive “investment” in negative ads attacking Mitt Romney’s character. That’s an ugly story for the hope-and-change guy — not just because it makes him look cynical, sinister, and hypocritical, but also because it underscores Obama’s profligacy. (Remember in 2008, Obama said his success running a presidential campaign proved what a good executive he was.) And the fact that they blew all of that money on ads and haven’t got much to show for it, undermines the claim that this is a brilliant campaign.

Better to explain away all of that spending and all of that nastiness as a wise “investment” in the “grassroots.” It’s a smart gambit by the Obama campaign, but I’m at a loss as to why the political press should fall for it.

Jonah Goldberg — Jonah Goldberg holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute and is a senior editor of National Review. His new book, The Suicide of The West, is on sale now.

Most Popular



Dear Reader (Especially everyone who got ripped off ordering that giant blimp online), Imagine an alien race that built its civilization on the fact it literally defecated highly refined uranium, or super-intelligent and obedient nano-bots, or simply extremely useful Swiss Army knives. Now imagine one of ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Rise of the Abortion Cheerleaders

Is abortion a sad and unfortunate reality — regrettable, as we are sometimes told, but often necessary — or is it a breezy nothingburger, completely “normal,” and something to be giddily celebrated like a last-minute NFL touchdown?  For a long time, the abortion lobby has had difficulty deciding. This ... Read More

‘The Warning Lights Are Blinking Red Again’

One of President Trump’s outstanding appointments has been Dan Coats, his director of national intelligence. Coats is a former House member, former senator, and former ambassador to Germany. He is a Hoosier (i.e., from Indiana). Whether he plays basketball, I don’t know. At Wheaton College, he played soccer. ... Read More

Europe Needs to Grow Up

It was a hot and difficult summer. And Europeans were pained to hear the blunt assessment that the U.S. would not be able to forever sustain NATO without greater investment on their part. The alliance was heading for “collective military irrelevance” and the current state of affairs was “unacceptable,” ... Read More