Wednesday, April 4, 2007

How a Capitalist Runs for Office

Even before this year's CPAC began, the NYT (David Kirkpatrick) was reporting that Mitt Romney campaign's was

paying for three vans, scores of registration fees and at least a half-dozen hotel rooms to pack collegiate supporters into the event.

The perks paid off, and Romney won the CPAC straw poll.

Of course, incentivizing collegians is nothing new; presidential hopeful Gary Bauer did the same thing in 2000 by recruiting, from among other places, Liberty University.

But Romney is thinking strategically, and his newest plan—to pay college volunteers who fundraise for him—promises even greater results. As the AP reports:

[P]articipants [in Students for Mitt] are asked to contact members of their academic, social and family circles, and point them to Romney's Web site. The students get 10 percent of all money above $1,000 that is contributed under their ID and source code.

Chapters are being established in Boston, Phoenix, Denver, Provo, Utah, and Rexburg, Idaho, the latter two where Brigham Young University a predominantly Mormon school is based and has a branch campus. . . .

"I spend a lot of hours at the campaign here," said Sarah Isgur, [a] second-year student at Harvard Law School. . . . "Some students are working at a law firm and earning $3,000 per week. My opportunity cost is pretty high some times, and this can take the edge off that."

Before becoming governor of Massachusetts, Romney led an enormously successful career as a venture capitalist. His just-reported fundraising haul of $23 million is "the story of the first quarter," as Chris Cillizza puts it. He may be getting walloped in the polls, but he's a savvy thinker who campaigns with a view not just toward tomorrow but toward the finish line.