I’m no fan of public financing of elections, but it strikes me that politically speaking, John McCain’s insistence that Barack Obama stay true to his pledge to use public financing in the general election if the Republican candidate agreed to it, is a master stroke. If McCain locks Obama into the public financing system in a general election, Obama would be giving up a massive fundraising edge over McCain. More likely, Obama will break his pledge, because he’d be crazy to forgo the windfall of donations he’d receive as the Democratic nominee. That will allow McCain to expose Obama–for all his talk about ushering in a “new kind of politics,” at the end of the day, he’s just like any other politician who will abandon his principles for cash. Already, this has led the Washington Post editorial board to hit Obama for waffling and campaign finance reform groups to pressure Obama into honoring his commitment. Liberal bloggers have contended that Obama never actually made a pledge, but I think this, as noted in the Post editorial, is pretty clear:
Is this admittedly wonky subject likely to make a big difference when November rolls around? No. But if McCain has any chance of winning this election, he’s going to have to knock off Obama’s halo and bring him back down to Earth a bit. He’ll have to make Obama look like a typical politician rather than one who is going to transform politics. And this is a small step in that direction.