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by Hema Vyas
When you decide to run as a candidate, one of the first questions you will get about your campaign strategy is how you are going to raise money. Having family or political connections and a circle of friends with disposable income can help.
Money buys advertising and campaign signs, can be used to hire staff and rent campaign office space. All of this gives the candidate a competitive presence.
But election results are getting much less predictable these days. Money doesn’t seem to be as key an indicator for election results that it has been in the past. Many current reports anticipate that Romney will far surpass Obama in fundraising for the American 2012 Election. But they are neck-in-neck in opinion polls. The election’s outcome is anyone’s guess and it will be interesting to see whether campaign fundraising ends up being a significant factor.
Fundraising was certainly not a predictor in our most recent federal election where candidates with little profile or funds rode the Orange Wave to victory.
Few are predicting the American election; no one predicted our federal results; and many were surprised with Toronto’s municipal results in 2010.
Will these changing patterns and a sense that no one really understands current trends enough to predict the winner bode well for new candidates? Political parties are vying to grow while voters’ perspectives are in flux. People seem to be choosing their party based on their perspectives about current events as opposed to the loyalties many candidates have depended on in the past.
Political experts are still using tried and tested campaign practices. It would be foolish to say that campaign fundraising does not matter. But as we saw in the 2011 federal election doing what we always did may not work anymore. Recent Ontario by-elections were nail-bitingly interesting, with at least one somewhat surprising outcome in Kitchener-Waterloo.
Is it possible that the old ways of winning an election are being turned on their heads? Are we entering a new era where who you know and how much you have are starting to matter less? New candidates with little money and no political connections who bring fresh, informed perspectives and passion to burn may find this is their moment.
Hema Vyas works in program evaluation and lives in the Junction. She ran for 2010’s Toronto City Council in Ward 18, Davenport.