The US Presidential Race, McCain-Obama – Public Financing and Off-Shore Drilling

Money: Now that Obama has opted out of the public financing system and McCain has decided to stay in, it appears that Obama may have about $250 million to invest in the months of September and October and McCain may have only about $85 million.

Should McCain be afraid? No and Yes.

No, because I do not think that Obama’s financial edge will do much for him in advertising (traditional and non-traditional) for his candidacy and causes. The reason is simple — time is short, and there will be galore free publicity. Yes, because Obama might gain a very substantial advantage in voter registration, and mobilization with paid staff and localized promotion and patronage. It takes almost one-on-one to persuade a voter to register, and then actually vote on the election day. The upside of such voter mobilization is monumental. Here is one such analysis (from Los Angeles Times), “In Florida alone, more than half a million black registered voters stayed home in 2004. Hundreds of thousands more African Americans are eligible to vote but not registered. And campaign analysts have identified similar potential in North Carolina, Virginia, Missouri and Ohio. In these five states, which were crucial to the GOP’s presidential success in 2000 and 2004, George W. Bush’s victory margins were generally slim enough to suggest that a major expansion of black turnout could lead to Democratic gains this year.”

Off-shore drilling: McCain has reversed his stance against off-shore drilling, and now advocates it. Obama continues to oppose this. The U.S. Congress currently has a statutory ban on off-shore drilling. What are the pros and cons?

With the high gas prices and improved technologies, voters are open to this idea — all public polls show that 55-60 percent of Americans support off-shore drilling. So that should help McCain, right? Not much for two reasons. One, the voters will always be reminded that McCain might be opportunistic and runs counter to McCain’s tough-it-out but do the right thing image. Two, the blue-collar, working class, lower income voters who are most affected by high gas prices are also surprisingly principled and tough (they would rather tough it), so McCain may gain no traction with this most plausible demographic group.

The principled-stubbornness of the working class demographic group came to most vivid demonstration when Clinton’s advocacy of temporary suspension of gas tax (and Obama’s opposition) did not fetch her any favors with this group in the Democratic primaries.