Eight Democrats are gearing up for their first presidential debate tonight in Orangeburg, South Carolina.
A recent national poll showed that Obama was narrowing his lead with Clinton (see Wall Street Journal graph to right). But do these early polls of scarcely informed voters merely reflect the media’s obsessions with a horse race rather than candidates’ policy nuances?
One of the major horse stories driving whipping the media into a frenzy is the fund raising race. The media – especially the Washington Post – seem to use these financial disclosures as a proxy for voter intentions come November 2008. And so the cycle begins. “Obama Exceeds Expectations!” “Hillary Harnesses Bill’s Fund Raising Network!” Perhaps these headlines simply keep the rich candidates’ names in the minds of would-be voters.
But if we’re going to talk about the fund raising race, we should examine the three states that will have a disproportionate effect on the national electorate: Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. So where are their campaign contributions going? By examining the campaign contributions to each candidate by state, we see that three Democratic candidates emerge: Clinton, Obama, and Edwards.
Edwards has pulled in 1 in 3 dollars given to Democratic candidates in from donors in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, 50% more than Obama and almost double the contributions to Clinton.
This contrasts sharply with national contributions. Is Edwards the dark horse that the media has forgotten? In South Carolina he still trails by a wide margin to Clinton and Obama. Tune in tonight to see whether his fund raising stacks up to his policies.