By Keith Epstein
Neophyte nationwide candidate Sarah Palin may have stuck it to Barack Obama last night with stinging sarcasm – and won points with GOP confederates and independents who see something of themselves in the spirited self-proclaimed “hockey mom.” But she’s also been good for business – Obama’s. Since McCain’s surprise announcement of his co-candidate, the Democrats have raised $8 million in contributions, and could tally another $2 million by the time McCain takes the podium to explain why he wants to be president.
Palin demonstrated Wednesday night that on the national stage as at an ice rink she has the capability for being a pit bull with lipstick. But soon after Obama’s campaign manager, David Plouffe, dispatched a mass email to supporters (Subject: “What You Just Saw.”). He wrote that he hadn’t intended to write but that the Alaska governor’s fierce attacks (mocking Obama’s own inexperience and community organizing, for instance) couldn’t go unanswered. He complained about “desperate lies and personal attacks.”
He also asked for money – at least $5.
In recent days, the Obama-Biden team has flooded its list of supporters with such messages – “sender” sometimes reading “Joe Biden” or “Michelle Obama.” That Dem-spam – along with the candidates’ own efforts in working telephones, of course – has generated impressive sums. Campaign spokesman Bill Burton tells the Washington Post, “Sarah Palin’s attacks have rallied our supporters in ways we never expected.”
Meanwhile, Republicans, too, are talking about how Sarah Barracuda may be good for fundraising, as she energizes party faithful and the uncertain alike. Within 10 minutes of her appearance Wednesday night, during which she of course spoke confidently of McCain as the next president and envisioned being in the White House herself, a Republican Party email conveying a certain degree of anxiety went out under Palin’s name.
“This year’s election will be close,” it says. “The Obama Democrats and their liberal special interest allies are spending unprecedented amounts of money…We must counter this effort…we need your help to succeed.” The pitch from the hockey mom from Wasilla was that contributions - “2,000, $1,000, $500, $250, $100, $50 or 25” – are “crucial” for helping Republicans “fight back and win.”
What all this means is that, for all the talk by Republicans and Democrats of changing the status quo, both parties are leveraging a time-honored fundraising truism: There’s nothing like a heightened threat and attack by your enemies to bleed your friends for more cash. In the conventions and on the hustings, by all means speak confidently of victory – but meanwhile instill at least a little anxiety among the targets of your fundraising. This technique harkens back eons in the fundraising business. One memorable example: During the 1980s, Ronald Reagan’s interior secretary, James Watt – reviled by environmentalists – proved to be one of history’s biggest blessings…for the Sierra Club. Donations and memberships soared.
Likewise, the fact that Palin is no Little Miss Buttercup is, for the Dems, almost tantamount to winning the Clearinghouse Sweepstakes.