Monday, March 19, 2007

"buying" the presidency

It's pretty obvious that the 2008 election is wide open. You've got the major players - Clinton, Obama, Guliani, McCain, Edwards and about 10 other lesser figures who think they've got a shot. I expect to see a few Independent candidates enter the fray as well. The trick is you probably need about a hundred million and some serious name recognition if you are going to pose a reasonable threat. Right now there are about 350 billionaires in the US and I think about 800 worldwide. That's a ton of cash in the hands of a select few. I would not be surprised if one of these billionaires, perhaps an businessman/egomaniac/entertainer decided to throw his weight around. There are plenty of young dot com entrepeneurs out there as well.
In the past few decades, there has been a ton of corporate spending and individual fundraising which has had a dramatic impact on who can or can't run effectively. Considering the vast amount of wealth in the hands of a select few, I think it's highly probable that one of these billionaires would try and take a shot. Here's the catch - they'll all be regarded as trying to buy the presidency and will likely fail. HOWEVER, if you could persuade one of these guys to bankroll an independent candidate (say to the tune of 100 or 200 million) - I think it would work. Imagine a guy like the MSNBC news reporter Chris Matthews with a centrist philosophy (social liberal, fiscal conservative) who has a vibrant personality with incredible extemperanous speaking abilities deciding to make the run. He has fantastic name recognition and strong credibility. Most importantly, he has no reason to pander to the DC lobbyists or corporate bullies because he has been totally bankrolled. The bankroller can claim that he/she is doing this for the good of the country and will decline any position in the future govt. They could use the line - the last thing this country needs is another easily-influenced politician (governor, mayor, senator, etc.). We need someone from the outside who will stand up for what he thinks is right. Listen up, I'm doing this for purely philanthropic purposes. The candidate would have a free hand to run things as he sees fit. The candidate (for hypothetical reasons, let's say it is Chris Matthews) would have enormous advantages. You could wage your campaign after the primary season, so you wouldn't have to waste any money in the build-up. Even though money is irrelevant with this scenario. Plus, you'd make your announcement right after the nomination process and totally steal the momentum from both parties. Your campaign could be largely waged through the media - television advertising - since money is no object.
The trick would be finding one of these billionaires who has a vested interest in turning this country around and who's not an egomaniac that thinks he can win the presidency himself. For some reason, Donald Trump keeps coming to mind. He could personally run, but he couldn't win (at least I pray not). But judging from his love of publicity and recent anti-Bush bashing, I wouldn't be surprised if he has considered this new concept. The only downside is that you and your candidate might wind up dead. I can't think of a better scenario designed to infuriate the entire political establishment. The beauty of this picture - it's very difficult to question the bankroller's motivation. They are pursuing this course "for the good the country." I can't imagine a situation more appealing to someone like Trump. All of a sudden, he's the most sought after interview on the planet and his underlying inspiration is noble.
I'm throwing this out there because the 2008 election is wide open. And I've got to believe that all this unbridled individual capitalism eventually has to play an even greater role in determining our leaders (instead of it always being the corporate sector). There's balance out there in all aspects of government, including capitalism and democracy.
Regardless, of this potential scenario shaking things up, I do there will be a few more independent candidates who launch campaigns after the primary season. There's a a gap forming for a universally liked, centrist candidate. All they need is a couple hundred million. The main difference between the 2008 election and other recent elections is that this one presents a credible opportunity. Just something to think about....
By the way, if one or a few other "power" candidates jump in, I think it guarantees a Hillary victory. Her base isn't going anywhere. She could win with a diluted vote - a lot like her husband in 1992 when Ross Perot siphoned off the Bush Sr. vote.

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