Sen. Barack Obama did not do his integrity any favor by going back on his pledge to use public financing this fall in the final months of the campaign. It will cost him, at least in the short run.
Instead of the $85 million in taxpayer money, Obama will most likely raise at least three times that amount in the home stretch of this election cycle marathon of words and dollars.
Obama's flip-flop will get strong hits from the McCain camp and rightly so. McCain, in need of money, is going the public route, and he'll make repeated references to the comparison and Obama's change of mind.
All this means that the presidency, in many ways, is up for sale in November. Obama's growing army of small contributors will be closely matched by independent groups for McCain. That independent money will be used largely for attack TV advertising by the business community, which shudders at the prospect of a Democratic president and Congress.
All of this matters little to the voters, who are more concerned about the high cost of gasoline, a worrisome economy, and the never-ending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Food on the table beats a he said-he said debate over campaign cash.
The truth is that public financing has never really caught on with voters since 1976. Even though the taxpayer's small checkoff every year is only $3 and does not add to the tax bill, taxpayers are more apt to check the NO column on their return.
Senator Obama, even in his wildest dreams, could not have imagined his campaign would become a cash cow. It met and then surpassed the Clinton money-raising machine and is now poised for more millions to run against McCain
This issue will not defeat Obama, but he looks smaller this week to me and others who worry about the presidency on the auction block.