John Sides uses Meg Whitman’s recent slide in the California gubernatorial race to make a good point about the reality of being a self-financed candidate:
First, it is important to remember that many candidates spend their own money because they are forced to, not because they necessarily want to. That is, they invest their money because they are facing strong opposition and could easily be defeated, or because they are languishing in the polls and desperately need to give their campaign a jolt, or because they are uncertain about their ability to raise money. Self-financing may be as much a sign of weakness as as sign of strength.
Indeed, Whitman joins Carly Fiorina and Linda McMahon as candidates whose money hasn’t made up for the core weakness of their position (both are trailing their competitors). To return to an earlier post, fundraising does more than provide cash for a campaign; it builds important connections and relationships among party activists and donors. Moreover, as Sides points out, “the act of fundraising may generate local media coverage of fundraising events and may strengthen a candidate’s ties to crucial interest groups and blocs of voters.” Again, having money is critical, but it’s only one part among the many necessary to run a successful campaign.
-- Jamelle Bouie