Positive feedback and the Romney campaign

If your money-raising is based on influence-buying, falling behind can be self-reinforcing.

I first got convinced that Barack Obama was going to be the Democratic nominee in 2008 when – after his shocking defeat in the New Hampshire primary – contributions surged, rather than drying up. That’s what conviction politics looks like, as compared to the politics of influence-buying. Such a campaign can bounce back from reversals of fortune.

Mitt Romney has some true believers, and some of them have big bucks. But his fund-raising has always been dominated by heavy donors recruited by bundlers. And of course the Romney-affiliated SuperPacs rely on tons of corporate money. The less it appears that giving heavily to Romney will buy influence with the next White House, the less that money is likely to flow. Conversely, Obama’s SuperPac activity, which has lagged all year, is likely to pick up as some of the big firms decide they don’t want to be completely identified with the losing side.

So it seems to me that this year there’s heavy-duty positive feedback built into the campaign. Even if Romney’s current weakness is apparent rather than real, the appearance can help make it real. The death stench can be part of a death spiral.



Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com