Polls and money disproportionately occupy the punditocracy. It is easier, I suppose, to copy numbers than to ferret out data on policy debates. But polls (especially early ones) change and money is not the end-all and be-all in politics.
So what should we take away from the figures tossed onto the political landscape? Let’s take the just-released Quinnipiac poll showing Mitt Romney with 25 percent of the vote, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) with 14 percent, and the six other actual candidates in single digits. It is silly to say, “Romney is nine points ahead of Bachmann” based on a national poll (we vote in primaries by state) months before the first election. But the poll will reinforce several perceptions.
First, Tim Pawlenty and Jon Huntsman both trail Newt Gingrich. Huntsman has a whopping 1 percent of the vote, Pawlenty 3 percent. Neither of these candidates are going to impress donors, and if it were not for the Beltway-centric punditocracy, both would be on page 15 of newspapers along with Rick Santorum. Huntsman will say he just joined the race, but so did Bachmann. It is not apparent that either Huntsman or Pawlenty have more supporters than reporters tuned into their efforts.
Second, there should be little doubt why Sarah Palin (12 percent) will almost certainly not run. The gal who was the belle of the Tea Party and the fixation of the national media would be just one of the pack, a comedown for her that would risk her media and political empire.
Finally, 18 percent are still undecided, statistically about the same proportion that was recorded in November 2010. There is still time for entrants, and many voters who still haven’t found their candidate.
As for the money, the Obama campaign and much of the mainstream media (do I repeat myself?) would have us believe he raised $86 million, breaking his $60 million goal. Not quite. The $86 million is the combined figure for the Democratic National Committee and the Obama campaign. Obama raised $47 million for himself, which is less than George W. Bush did in the third quarter of 2003.
Yes, Obama raised a lot of money. Yes, he’ll have more than the GOP nominee (which incumbent president didn’t outraise his opponent?). But, over at the Republican National Committee, the immensely clever Joe Pounder, previously with Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and then with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), has some fun with numbers. (For example, when Obama was jetting around the country, 61,000 Americans gave up looking for work. Obama added 552,462 donors, and 545,000 Americans became unemployed.) The point of course is that fundraising totals aren’t the most important figures in politics. (And, the RNC will say, Obama’s own fundraising success shows he’s taken his eye off the ball.)
Polls have some influence. Money has some influence. But frankly, both are overblown and change in relation to events (a good debate performance, bad employment numbers) that are far more important.