Mon, Oct 11, 2010 - Page 7 News List

US election run becomes an exhausting dash for cash


The candidate turned from her pink laptop, phoned a prospective donor, and took a breath before launching into yet another fundraising pitch for her long-odds congressional campaign.

“This is Krystal Ball,” she told a supporter. “We’ve got one month to go, we’re making a very strong push here to get our message out to voters and keep our ads on the air, and I wanted to ask if you could help us with that by making a contribution of US$500.”

Confident but not brash, humble but firm in her plea for funds — and all too familiar with the questions and quips about her soothsaying real name — Ball knows when to thank a non-contributor and move on to the next possible donation that will help keep alive her Democratic campaign to become, at age 28, the youngest woman ever elected to the US House of Representatives.

Like the vast majority of candidates up against better-funded incumbents in races across the US, she must focus not just on the issues, but on the perpetual hunt for dollars — a hunt made that much more exhausting because of the economic strife now pinching millions of Americans.

“Every available minute that I’m not at a campaign event, I’m -fundraising,” she said after giving a speech to Virginia retirees.

On this telephone call Ball struck gold, and staffers waved their hands in the air in appreciation of the latest donation — US$1,400 — pulled in by the candidate challenging a Republican incumbent in Virginia’s traditionally conservative first district, 90 minutes drive south of the US capital.

It may be just a drop in the record US$3.4 billion that monitors forecast will be spent on political ads before the election on Nov. 2.

Unseating a member of congress is difficult. About half of all races feature an incumbent who has outraised his or her opponent by a factor of 10 to one, and at least 20 representatives this year have raised more than 100 times as much as their opponents, Federal Election Commission (FEC) data show.

And that money clearly wins elections. The day after US President Barack Obama’s historic presidential win in November 2008, the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks the effect of money on US elections and policy, reported that 93 percent of all congressional races that year were won by the candidate who spent the most cash.

Average price tag for a successful House campaign that year? More than US$1 million.

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