Primary Rush Forces New Tack For Campaigns
By: Wall Street Journal
By MARY JACOBY and T.W. FARNAM
October 31, 2007
In a topsy-turvy presidential campaign, with hundreds of millions of dollars already raised and a January jam-packed with key events as never before, candidates are challenging some traditional notions about the best path to the White House.
In races past, candidates typically spent most heavily in the early going on the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, then had time to shift resources to larger, later states if the nomination hadn’t been sewed up yet.
This campaign season is shaping up differently, especially for Republicans, where two major candidates — Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson — are spending their budgets most heavily on Florida. That state’s Jan. 29 primary has made it for the first time a potential kingmaker along with Iowa and New Hampshire. Among Republicans, Mitt Romney is also a big spender in Florida.
For Democrats, the growing dominance of Hillary Rodham Clinton, challenged by a struggling but well-financed Barack Obama, has led unprecedented millions to be poured into Iowa — twice as much as into New Hampshire. Iowa’s Jan. 3 caucus has taken on greater importance for Democrats than four or eight years ago because it is the single best chance for Mr. Obama and John Edwards to stop Mrs. Clinton. None of the Democratic candidates are active in Florida because the national party, angry at the state for moving its vote so early, has forbidden campaigning there.
The shape of the campaign emerges from a Wall Street Journal analysis of campaign spending reports released earlier this month. The Journal estimated spending in each state choosing a candidate in January by analyzing campaign filings and gathering data on television-advertising spending and staffing.
“The Democrats are being very much condensed and focused on Iowa, whereas Republicans are pursuing a less conventional strategy,” says Evan Tracey, an analyst with TNS Media Intelligence/CMAG, a political media research firm. “Campaigns are having to make some tough choices as far as the states where they put their money.”
Six states have primaries or caucuses for both parties in January — Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada, Michigan and Florida. A seventh, Wyoming, will select among Republicans. Then, on Feb. 5, California, New York, Illinois and other big states vote in what could be the campaign’s decisive day.
The new schedule means voters in some large states may play a more central role in choosing the parties’ candidates than in earlier years, when the stretched-out campaign meant the victor was often effectively decided before many big states voted.
Mr. Giuliani, the former New York mayor, spent more money in Florida in the first nine months of the year than he did in either Iowa or New Hampshire, according to the Journal analysis. He believes that even if he loses the earlier states, transplanted Northeasterners and Jewish voters in Florida could carry him to victory in that state’s Jan. 29 primary. Then he would attempt to leverage the momentum on the big primary day. Mr. Giuliani’s aides have played down his chances in Iowa, claiming they would be happy with a fourth-place finish.
Mr. Thompson, a former Tennessee senator, has less money to spend than Mr. Giuliani, but he too is giving considerable attention to Florida. Through Sept. 30, he spent twice as much in Florida as in Iowa. Mr. Thompson’s national political director is based in Florida, which accounts for a lot of his spending there, his campaign said. Mr. Thompson is also focusing heavily on South Carolina, though he hadn’t yet spent much money there as of last month.
Mr. Romney, a former venture capitalist who has lent his campaign more than $17 million and has spent more than any other Republican candidate, has spent the most of any Republican in Florida — more than $2 million. But that is only about half of what he has spent in Iowa and New Hampshire each, reflecting the divergent strategies of the candidates.
The national Republican Party didn’t issue any ban on its candidates campaigning in Florida, although it has threatened to reduce the size of Florida delegation at the national convention.
On the Democratic side of the race, the driving dynamic is the growing edge held by Mrs. Clinton. She now leads Illinois Sen. Obama in national polls by an average of 26 percentage points, according to Real Clear Politics, a Web site that tracks survey trends.
Both Mr. Obama and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, who generally places third in the polls, have turned increasingly critical of the former first lady in their stump rhetoric. They were hoping to use a Democratic debate in Philadelphia last night to shake up the calculus of the race.
Mrs. Clinton keeps “changing positions whenever it’s politically convenient,” Mr. Obama said in the debate. Mr. Edwards said trusting Mrs. Clinton to change the direction of the country was like believing in the tooth fairy or Santa Claus. “If people want the status quo, Sen. Clinton’s your candidate,” Mr. Edwards said.
Polls show Mrs. Clinton’s lead in Iowa is the smallest among the early-voting states. The Obama and Edwards campaigns have concluded that if they can weaken the front-runner there, momentum could shift against her in New Hampshire and the other states that follow in rapid succession. That is forcing Mrs. Clinton to spend heavily in Iowa as well.
The spending reports show that all three have spent about twice as much money in Iowa as they have in New Hampshire, and far more than in any of the other early-voting states. Mr. Obama has spent between $5 million and $6 million in Iowa through Sept. 30, according to the Journal’s calculations, compared with $3 million to $4 million for Mrs. Clinton.
That includes roughly $3 million on television ads for Mr. Obama, compared with $2 million for Mrs. Clinton, according to Mr. Tracey, the political-media analyst. Mr. Obama has opened 32 offices in Iowa and has at least 110 staffers there, his campaign reports show. Mrs. Clinton has 24 offices there with at least 65 staffers. Her aides said yesterday she would hire another 100 campaign workers in Iowa.
“The expectations for Obama in Iowa are very high,” said Donna Brazile, a Democratic strategist who managed Al Gore’s campaign for president in 2000 and is neutral in the 2008 race.
Mr. Edwards has lagged in fund raising and spending, and he has only 15 field offices in Iowa. Mr. Edwards has accepted public financing to supplement his campaign and agreed to the strict spending limits that go with it.
Even with his heavy spending in Iowa, Mr. Obama has raised so much cash — $74.9 million so far for the Democratic primary — that a setback in the first caucus wouldn’t force him to quit. “He could still come in second or even third and be viable,” says Ms. Brazile. Not so for Mr. Edwards, who has raised less than half as much as Mr. Obama, though he will get a cash infusion of $10 million through the public financing system. For him, “Iowa is a do-or-die moment,” Ms. Brazile said.
A spokesman for Mr. Edwards took issue with Ms. Brazile’s analysis. “Don’t be fooled — Iowa is crucial for everyone, and that’s why each of our opponents are spending millions of dollars and most of their time there,” Eric Schultz said.
Write to Mary Jacoby at firstname.lastname@example.org
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