One of the main arguments against Mike Huckabee has been his lack of funds. Someone, the argument goes, will have to outspend Hillary to win the generals, and because Huck ticks off those oh-so-wealthy fiscal conservatives, he won’t stand a chance.

If Indianapolis is any indication, money doesn’t buy elections. Republican Greg Ballard defeated the two-term incumbent Bart Peterson in what people are calling “the greatest upset in Indiana political history.”

Ballard, a 52-year-old retired lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps, didn’t have much money and didn’t have the support of party insiders or the business community. But he had something better: votes.

With votes from nearly all of the city’s 917 precincts tallied, Ballard was ahead by almost four percentage points. Peterson called him shortly before 10:30 p.m. to concede.

Only a few months ago, Peterson was expected to cruise to an easy re-election to a third term. But voter anger about rising taxes and crime blew massive change into the City-County Building, from the mayor’s office to the council, where Republicans also recaptured the majority they lost four years ago…

Ballard was massively outspent by Peterson in this election.

Ballard, though, had said throughout the campaign that the issues, and not money, would decide the race, and Tuesday night he was proved right.

“Money can’t buy me love,” he said. “but it doesn’t buy elections either.”

Mike McDaniel, a former Indiana Republican Party chairman, said the lack of financial support means Ballard “doesn’t owe anybody anything.”

“Instead of an inaugural ball, he ought to hold an amnesty ball” to extend forgiveness to those party and business leaders who didn’t help his campaign, McDaniel said.

It’s almost the exact same scenario for Mike Huckabee, and it’s a decisive example against those who think money is the indicator of success in politics. It helps if you can get it, but it’s not everything (as Ron Paul will doubtlessly discover when the votes are actually being cast). This isn’t a two-man race yet, and won’t be until the votes are cast.

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Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.

2 Comments

  1. I appreciate your point, Matt, but I don’t think a mayoral race — in a city of less than a million people! — can be compared to the national race for president.

    Moreover, it seems only 125,000 Indianapolitans voted for mayor, compared to about 125 million who voted in the 2004 election. If the funding discrepancy between Ballard and Peterson were comparably extrapolated by a magnitude of 1000 I’m not convinced it would translate to the same result because Ballard would simply be unable to transmit his message to the same degree as Peterson.

    Whatever Ballard’s obstacles were in Indianapolis they would be amplified at the national level and his lack of funding, similarly amplified, would soon cripple him. But I’m out of my depth on this topic and now that you’re in the financial advising business I’m happy to bow to your expertise.

    Reply

  2. Matthew Lee Anderson November 10, 2007 at 3:00 pm

    Jon,

    Obviously, there are going to be some differences that make the analogy less plausible than I put it. But I’m not sure those differences overwhelm the principle: strong grass-roots support and voter apathy about the other candidate allows previously hopeless candidates to win.

    But that’s the difference between the national scale and the local–a grass-roots effort is much more easy in the latter. Hence, any candidate would have to be not only to organize such an effort, but inspire people to do extraordinary things to get the word out and defeat the ads.

    Reply

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