Money is sadly essential for success in big-time politics these days. Even the best candidate rarely can expect to be elected unless he can raise a substantial -- sometimes obscene -- amount of campaign money.
If a candidate and his policies are appealing, he may find it easier to attract eager donors. Other contributors shell out money expecting to get something in return -- and not necessarily good government.
It would be nice if a candidate's merit, values and principles alone could propel him to office, but that's typically not enough.
In our current presidential election cycle, local numbers bear that out.
The Republican field dominates fundraising in our conservative area, with the GOP candidates getting collective campaign donations through Sept. 30 of about $38,000 from Hamilton Countians. Democrat President Barack Obama had raised about $24,000 as of the same date. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney led the GOP field with about $17,000 in local contributions.
Of course, hardly anyone believes that Obama will carry conservative Tennessee in 2012, but money raised here will not necessarily be spent here. It may go to battleground states where the president has better odds.
The lower amounts that the individual GOP candidates have collected in Hamilton County compared with Obama simply indicate that Republican voters in our area have not settled on which GOP candidate they prefer. Eventually they will coalesce around one of the hopefuls, who will then likely start to get the overwhelming share of GOP donations.
Meanwhile, nationwide, Obama hopes to raise $1 billion for his 2012 campaign. Any GOP candidate would surely like to reach such a total, too.
They may well need it to challenge Obama. But it is nonetheless troubling that money plays such a huge role in our elections.
And on that subject, have you seen a candidate of either party who you believe is worth investing a lot amount of money in to help elect?