I was not surprised to read this morning that Barack Obama will forgo a publicly financed general election campaign. The announcement came a bit earlier than expected, but most political observers (myself included) correctly assumed that the Obama campaign would find the potential for a $300 million private fundraising haul (as opposed to $84 million directly from the U.S. Treasury) just too tempting to pass up. My guess is that the Obama campaign decided to announce the decision now, in order to get the inevitable pounding by critics for what looks like a pretty clear flip-flop on the issue out of the way as soon as possible.
There may be some truth to the Obama campaign's argument that the level of citizen participation in its grassroots fundraising network actually better captures the spirit of public financing than does the broken federal system. But Obama’s decision to affix primary blame for the move to the McCain campaign, RNC fundraising activities, and the potential for mischief by Republican 527 groups, strikes me as a bit of a stretch. Especially since subsequent reporting suggests that the Obama campaign didn’t exactly beat down the McCain campaign’s door to negotiate (as promised) a bi-partisan agreement between the two camps on public financing. So, while this may very well turn out to be a smart strategic move for the Obama campaign, it should at least be honest about the fact that the lure of a 3-to-1 spending advantage over the McCain campaign was simply too strong to ignore.

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