Presidential nominating campaigns are now a big business. Money is the fuel that drives these campaigns--a dynamic component that often decides who the party nominee will be. In the 1988 presidential nominating race, which featured an open contest in both parties, the various contestants spent a grand total of $233.5 million in their quest for the White House. Preliminary spending totals for the 1996 pre-nomination race, according to the Federal Election Commission, came to $230.9 million, although only the Republican party had a contested nomination. 1
Commenting early on the 1996 race, "We've been watching an arms race," declared Herbert E. Alexander, the campaign finance expert. "It was started by Forbes [ Malcolm S. "Steve"] and his massive spending. Other candidates have felt the need to respond. Now the thing has achieved a momentum of its own," Alexander continued. 2 Forbes, the wealthy magazine publisher, pumped approximately $40 million from his own deep pockets to underwrite his flamboyant but unsuccessful drive for the Republican nomination. Forbes's rivals, especially front-runner Senator Bob Dole, were forced to counterattack Forbes with a heavy outlay of dollars. Other GOP contenders--Alexander, Buchanan, Gramm, Lugar, Keyes, and Taylor--also found themselves trying to stay in the race by scraping up nearly every dollar in their treasuries for their advertising campaigns.
By contrast, the figures for the 1960 nominating race--also an open contest--show that the various candidates of the two major parties, including Senator John F. Kennedy and Vice President Richard M. Nixon, spent a grand total of less than $3 million. 3 In the 1990s this amount would total little more than the combined candidate spending in a single presidential primary such as Florida. Indeed, the fast-moving presidential pri