$600 Million? This is a change…

Barack Obama has changed politics – now it can cost you $600 million to run for President, thanks to Obama’s record-shattering $150 million raised in September.

With one more month like that, the Obama campaing would have raised enough to buy both 2008 World Series participants. He has already raised enough for his White Sox.

By raising this much from small donations, Obama has indeed changed campaign fundraising as we know it. By creating a system where people can give $10 at a time, the Obama camp is getting people to invest in his campaign – and once people are invested, they stay interested. It’s a tactic that dates back to high school: a club that charges dues can expect members to be much more serious about meetings and activities; a campaign can similarly expect its donors to be more serious about getting to the polls on election day.

Palin’s next steps

Sarah Palin is stepping out of her shell to appear on SNL this week. This is a critical appearance – not for 2008, which is pretty much decided, but for her future as a Republican leader.

Palin’s selection as McCain’s veep energized the Republican party for a short period of time by signalling that the national ticket was willing to add a candidate who not only identified as a conservative but had governed (and lived) as one, as well. After a primary season where candidates fell all over themselves to quote Ronald Reagan, Palin was different in that she walked the walk. And of course, Republicans were eager to have their views articulated by someone other than an old white guy – just as the Democrats were when they rushed Barack Obama to the national spotlight in 2004.

This weekend, Palin begins the next phase of her political career. If she can hold her own and roll with SNL’s punches, she can earn a position of relevance as a GOP spokesperson and set up a possible 2012 run for the White House.

Game on!

News broke this week that Barack Obama placed campaign ads in online video games. Obama’s campaign has been very innovative throughout this campaign cycle – most notable their iPhone application which turns your mobile phone into a satellite campaign office. I’m not sure this is a great example of technical innovation, but it shows the pervasiveness of both advertising and political campaigns.

You might also imagine it shows the Obama camp has too much money, that they are wasting resources on ads directed at stoner teens who can’t – or don’t – vote. But if you look at the demographics of online gamers, it actually makes sense to advertise in this space. In fact, online gamers spend three times as long on their computers as they do in front of their TVs. It’s actually a pretty bright move.

The biggest value was, of course, the free advertising the Obama camp received from the news media for using such a novel advertising tactic – a less-controversial equivalent of the strategy behind the “Daisy” ad.

Where’s MY tax cut?

I tried out Barack Obama’s “tax cut calculator.” It doesn’t seem to work. It looks nice, but when I tried to enter my information the problems started.

First, it wouldn’t take all the information required. Next, it started processing whatever information it did have, but I couldn’t tell what it was doing or how it was manipulating that data. Then it gave me a brief message about staying informed.

I didn’t get any details about my tax cut – just the same short message, over and over again.

Hey, wait a minute…

Obama: We’re taking your money. Get over it.

I don’t have to make it up: He said it to a plumber from Ohio. To illustrate the courage of his convictions, he even tries to explain marginal rates to make the tax hike sound not so bad.

It plays well in the polls to wage class warfare and say that you’re only taxing “the wealthy” – but the reality is that those taxes hurt the people who are expanding the economy. Government prints money, but businesses create wealth.

(By the way, if all this sounds familiar, it should.)

A promise is a promise…

John McCain has promised to bring up Barack Obama’s relationship with 1960’s activist/terrorist William Ayers in their debate this week.

I guess that’s good, but on the off chance that Obama has a glib reply prepared, McCain may want to find something else to ask his opponent. Some things I would like to see discussed:

Putting union thugs back in charge of elections

The most interesting part of this week’s Presidential debate wasn’t even part of the debate – it was this commercial:

If you need to watch it again, I don’t blame you – that’s leftist stalwart George McGovern opposing the Employee Free Choice Act, or EFCA. This creatively-named legislation would let union officials – i.e. goons – look over a worker’s shoulder when he or she casts a vote to unionize, replacing the apparently outdated concept of secret ballots. The hope from organized labor and Democrat circles is that this would lead to an increase in union membership.

Union membership has been steadily declining despite a small uptick in 2007 – and the states where the economies have been most prosperous have been those with right-to-work laws.

Barack Obama (who is receiving $3 million worth of campaign help from his union buddies) is promising to sign the bill – which has been blocked by filibusters but has already passed the Democrat-controlled House. Considering what unions have done for the economies in places like Michigan, that would be an unwise move. Obama would do well to listen to fellow Democrat McGovern.

(For more information on keeping secret ballots in union elections, check out www.myprivateballot.com.)

American Film Renaissance

The American Film Renaissance festival came to Your Nation’s Capital last week. An attempt to break the left’s stranglehold on entertainment media, AFR features conservative and libertarian-themed films and filmakers.

My normal rul of thumb is that when you label yourself “The Conservative [ANYTHING]” you’ve already lost – as An American Carol is demonstrating in box offices right now. But AFR and similar film festivals are a little different; if nothing else, they serve to act as a place for conservative filmmakers to practice. Not all the films are politically themed, either.

I’ve attended a few of these, and admittedly it’s easy for less-than-stellar works to get a free pass because conservatives are just that thrilled to see something on a big screen that reflects their values. But this is still an important sandbox for conservative would-be entertainers – if just a few emerge making Hollwood-quality movies or TV shows, that will certainly help balance things out.

We’re losing the debates

Sarah Palin and Joe Biden debated last night. Like millions of Americans, I made sure I was in front of a TV to tune into Pitt’s 26-21 upset of No. 10 South Florida.

What made the football game more interesting was that even though I was rooting for Pitt, I didn’t have any idea what either side was going to do – much less what the outcome would be. If you’ve made up your mind on a candidate, chances are the debate won’t change your mind. Worse yet, if you’ve followed the race to this point – and it has been a very long race to this point – you have a good idea of what each veep candidate will say in advance.

Early in the third quarter of the football game, Pitt tried a fake punt. It came from out of nowhere. What would the equivalent of a fake punt be in a Presidential or Vice Presidential debate? Joe Biden calling for free market solutions to the financial crisis? Sarah Palin accepting Hugh Hefner’s offer?

Debates have become microcosms of the campaigns – in other words, scripted personality contests that only happen every four years. And for the campaigns, that’s the right move, because they have such a finite amount of time to discuss issues and ideas. The American people are stuck voting for candidates based on personality rather than ideas.

Debates would be more useful if they were more frequent. In addition to holding a handful of candidates’ debates just before an election, it might be fun to see monthly or weekly debates between conservatives and liberals on various issues. At the risk of dating myself, this worked well about 15 years ago, when Ross Perot and then-thin Vice President Al Gore debated NAFTA on Larry King Live.

I’d like to see an hour long debate between MoveOn.org and the Heritage Foundation about whether we should replace our income tax with a national sales tax. I’d like to see the AFL-CIO debate National Right to Work over the proposal to remove secret ballots from union elections.

This isn’t going to turn our Presidential election into forums of philosophy, but it might help engage people more in the political process. And, let’s be honest, those 24-hour-a-day news channels don’t have enough news as it is. This would help them kill an hour or so a week.