Darren Hauck/Getty Images
Presidential candidate, Senator Barack Obama speaks at a town hall meeting at Kaukauna High School in Kaukauna, Wis., June 12.
In rejecting public campaign funds, Barack Obama is once again making history: He will be the first candidate of either major party to opt out of public funding in a general election.
The decision may come at a price — but probably not a very big one, says Eamon Javers, financial correspondent for Politico.com. And it's a price that pales in comparison to the large amounts of money Obama can raise from his legions of small, grassroots donors.
John McCain has already accused Obama of flip-flopping on his original pledge to accept public funding, but Javers says the amount of money that Obama would lose by accepting public spending limits made the decision inevitable.
"Eighty million dollars is just not that much when you think about it," says Javers. "The amount of money spent on toothpaste advertising is more than that."
Javers says that Obama's 50-state strategy means he's going to need the larger amounts — probably in the $300 million range — that he can raise from his millions of supporters. "He's not just going to target states that he thinks are most favorable to him," says Javers. "He's going to play everywhere, which means he's got to run television ads in all the biggest parts of the country, which means $80 million is certainly not going to be enough."
Speaking about Obama's decision Thursday, McCain said: "Whenever you go back on your word, you erode the trust of the American people." Javers says he expects to see some more Republican attacks on the issue, but doesn't think that charges of hypocrisy will have much traction. "The average voters don't pay a whole lot of attention to this kind of thing," he says.
In fact, says Javers, the Obama campaign is already trying to spin the decision to turn it into a major plus. "The Obama campaign is very savvy in how they're handling this," he says. "If you looked on their Web site yesterday, and even this morning, they had a huge banner up saying, 'we're declaring independence from a broken campaign system.' " Their message, he says, is that Obama's is the first campaign truly funded by the people.
"They're using Obama's decision here to actually call for more contributions to their huge campaign fundraising juggernaut," Javers says.