As I have suggested on at least one previous occasion, the New York Times and "Public" Broadcast System (PBS) pundit David Brooks is not the sharpest knife in the drawer. Today on the PBS News Hour, after finding it necessary to deny that the evangelical Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is a "socialist," Brooks said that Huckabee and Barack Obama’s Iowa’s primary/caucus victories prove that the 2008 presidential nominations won’t be won with money or media consultants but rather with "message."
Really? The point applies somewhat well to Huckabee’s victory over the high-spending Mitt Romney campaign perhaps. But according to the New York Post two days ago, the Iowa Democratic Caucus winner Barack Obama spent more than $9 million on television ads in Iowa – the most of any candidate in the state. The second-place finisher, the pro-labor "populist" John Edwards, spent just $3.2 million.
Obama got 38 percent of the state’s Democratic Party delegates, meaning that he spent $236,842 per delegate percentage point. Edwards got 30 percent of the state’s Democratic Partyy delegates, meaning that he spent $106,667 per delegate percentage point. Apparently, the much more well-funded Obama campaign (more than $80 million raised through the third quarter of 2007) spent considerably more than the Edwards campaign (around $30 million) on getting its expensively consultant-crafted message out across the corporate media.
And as anyone from Iowa with a functioning television can tell you, the state’s voters were simply bombarded with Obama commercials. Does Brooks seriously want us to think this wasn’t critical to caucus voters’ willingness to embrace Obama’s message.
It seems pretty obvious that money and consultants (the crafters of political "message") mattered a great deal as far as the super-wealthy Obama campaign was concerned. Was it just Obama’s message alone that resonated with more than a third of the state’s Democratic caucus attendees, regardless of money, with no regard to money and consultants? Not likely.
For what it’s worth, this Iowa caucus-goer was able to attend numerous candidate events and consistently found that Edwards’ message was stronger and beter than Obama’s in person — a much more powerful message of fighting corporate power for democratic progress. Edwards was by far and away the most effective campaign communicator both in candidate debates and in personal appearances.
He was unable to match the BaRoockstar either in campaign advertisements or in free media attention given during national and news broadcasts and press accounts and endorsements. Throughout the Caucus campaign, Obama was given a simply astomishing and umnatched level of positive and lengthy media coverage. This reflected (i) corporate media’s deep disdain for anything that even slightly hints of populism and (ii) that media’s deep approval of Obama’s message of reconcilation across class, regional, racial, partisan and ideological lines/ (Please see the Paul Krugman column linked in this sentence – it provides a critical discussion of the difference between Edwards and Obama).
As usual, Brooks is dealing in false dichtomies. He does not understand money and class power and its role in selecting Obama for the Demcoratic nomiination. The truth is that he himself is a leading conduit for the conservative Obama message (openly praised by Brooks as "Hamiltonian").
Who knows what percentage of the delegates the left presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich could have gotten if he’d able to spend $9 million in Iowa. None of which can provide the slightest excuse for his despicable decision to tell his caucus-goers to give their votes to the corporate-imperial Obama phenomenon. I guarantee readers that Edwards would have won Iowa handily if he’d enjoyed the sort of money Obama possessed.
Today on PBS Bill Moyers gave Kucinich a fairly populist quote from Edwards – one of thousands of passionate anti-poverty and pro-labor messages delivered by Edwards since last spring – — and then basically asked the Ohio Congressman why on earth he supported Obama? There was no answer. We’re still waiting for the full story on Kucinich’s unfortunate move.
Meanwhile, just remember not to be fooled: Mike Huckabee is not a socialist.
Thanks for clearing that up, Mr. Brooks.