June 18, 2008

This will probably be at least mildly controversial, but I think Barack Obama made the right call this morning by announcing that he would not stay within the public financing system for the general election. The senator made the announcement in a video released earlier today.

Not surprisingly, the McCain campaign isn’t happy. “Today, Barack Obama has revealed himself to be just another typical politician who will do and say whatever is most expedient for Barack Obama,” McCain campaign communications director Jill Hazelbaker said in a statement. The McCain camp added that Obama’s move “undermines his call for a new type of politics.”

At the risk of sounding picky, if Obama is doing something that’s never been done before, isn’t that necessarily consistent with “a new type of politics”?

Besides, it’s not like McCain is in a position to condemn from the moral high ground, given the way he played fast and loose (i.e., arguably illegally) with the public financing system during the Republican primaries.

As for Obama, today’s announcement probably won’t cost him too much politically — I doubt very much there are a lot of voters who’ll base their candidate preference on the public-financing system — and should benefit him enormously. Obama will be able to take full advantage of his fundraising edge over McCain, and compete aggressively everywhere. (Marc Ambinder noted, “The potential money gap in the general election is huge — Obama could raise as much as $300m, and the McCain campaign/RNC budget team doesn’t anticipating spending more than $150m.”)

Jonathan Singer also had a good item about the impact of Obama’s decision.

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