The Democrat once made a conditional agreement to accept taxpayer money from the public financing system, and accompanying spending limits, if his Republican opponent did, too.
The chance to financially swamp John McCain — and maneuver for an enormous general election advantage — proved too great an allure.
And with that, the first-term Illinois senator tarnished his carefully honed image as a different kind of politician — one who means what he says and says what he means — while undercutting his call for “a new kind of politics.”
“‘Change We Can Believe In’ has been thrown overboard for ‘Political Expediency I Can Win With,'” said Todd Harris, a Republican analyst and aide to former presidential candidate Fred Thompson in the primary. “Every time Obama’s change rhetoric meets his actual change record it evaporates in a cloud of hypocrisy.”
Last year, as Obama competed against fundraising behemoth Hillary Rodham Clinton and before his fundraising prowess was evident, Obama proposed that both major party general election nominees agree to stay in the public financing system.
In a November 2007 questionnaire, Obama answered “yes” when asked: “If you are nominated for president in 2008 and your major opponents agree to forgo private funding in the general election campaign, will you participate in the presidential public financing system?” He added: “I will aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election.”
Then, Obama raised enormous sums — and he started backing away from that position.
McCain, however, had indicated he would go along with the proposal and, since clinching the GOP nomination, has been trying to hold Obama to his commitment. Obama “said he would stick to his word. He didn’t,” McCain complained Thursday, and then told reporters in Minnesota, “We will take public financing.”
Obama made his announcement as McCain was in the Democrat’s hometown of Chicago — where McCain had come to raise money.
Obama’s decision also came one day before the candidates were required to report their May fundraising totals.
The move could be the death-knell for the post-Watergate federal financing system designed to lessen the large donors’ influence and reduce corruption.
So much for being a straight shooter.