Democratically-controlled and Republican-controlled “superPACs” have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on advertising in all the key battleground States. The Obama campaign and Romney campaign have spent hundreds of additional millions of dollars on ads, polling, radio, newsprint, direct mail. Perhaps more than $2 billion will have been spent on the Presidential election.
And… for months, the polls stayed the same. From February through the first debate, the tracking polls were basically unmoving. Other than the false polling reports two weeks before the first debate, the President had a statistically meaningless lead over his challenger, Governor Romney.
Then 70 million viewers tuned into the first debate to watch 1 candidate spar and the other candidate withdraw. Almost 52 million viewers tuned in to watch VP Biden “yuck-up” his way to 82 interruptions in 90 minutes. Then over 65 million viewers tuned in to watch the 2nd “mano-a-mano” debate where the President first stepped into the mendacious story that is Benghazi. Finally, just shy of 60 million viewers tuned into the “Boredom-in-Boca” (but 1 out of 6 viewers watched on Cable’s FOX channel — setting a record).
The first debate began a momentum swing to Romney and each debate has seen the movement to Romney continue… Why were these debates that important? Why after billions spent on advertising, thousands of hours of “news” commentary, and hundreds of proxy speeches did the race really just come down to the four debates?
Because free and widely spent money in politics by both sides meant that many voters only have one way to gauge the reality of the candidates… To see them, personally, without filters, without pundits, without spinmeisters, without tele-prompters. Americans are a smart people. Sometimes their busy and so its hard to get their attention, but once they are focused, they are a smart people. They waited to see the candidates for themselves.
There were about 130 million votes cast in 2008. Assuming that each of the debates had 80% audience overlap (a total guess on my part), that means that perhaps as many as 95 million unique viewers watched at least one debate. That means that as many as 3 of 4 Presidential voters tuned in to see the candidates personally face-off. Those are stunningly high numbers. Those are wonderful, heart-warming, stunningly high numbers.
When all is said and done, the unfettered ability for each side to promote their message through television, radio, mail, social media, “news” outlets, etc. have led to a wonderful result. Voters tuning in to watch the candidates, themselves, without television ads, radio ads, direct mail, social media or “news” outlets. Democracy in action is a beautiful thing.
I support Mitt Romney. However, if the President should win re-election, it will be because Americans tuned in and made their decision after watching the candidate himself. If my guy wins, the same facts hold. Thank goodness for campaign spending. It failed to move the needle or shed new light on the race which forced a level of importance on the debates that was unexpected. Just imagine a world with spending controls and limits. Just imagine a world in which 4 media outlets control who gets to be heard.
God Bless America.