Money matters

By STEVEN STARK  |  December 24, 2008

All this is relevant in assessing whether Obama's victory actually signals a realignment of our presidential politics. The economic crisis could create a possible opening for an expansion of government and an era of Democratic rule. And now that he's the incumbent, Obama will be able to use the power of the office to help him secure re-election, as all his predecessors have tried to do. (Based on Obama's performance so far, he'll do it very well.)

Still, it's terribly unlikely anyone will ever again have that kind of financial advantage. As Michael Barone pointed out in a recent commentary, one can run to become the first African-American president only once. Next time, the thrill will be gone, or at least diminished.

Should the economic slowdown continue, raising money is going to be much tougher, too, as colleges and charities have already begun to find out. Most important, Obama's fundraising magnetism is unlikely to benefit his Democratic colleagues.

That's why the one path open to the Democrats — at least for the next two years — is to try to change the federal-election laws in a way that benefits their party. It's clear the old rules don't work anymore — only an idiot would take public funding in the future. Yet chances are that the Dems will be afraid to touch the system, now that it appears at first glance to finally benefit them.

The bottom line is that Obama and the circumstances that led to his election this time appear unique. And uniqueness, by definition, isn't transferable. At least, the Republicans better hope that's the case.

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