Steve Soto passes on a conversation he had with Joe Trippi in which Trippi said that if Kerry doesn't opt out of public financing for the general election that it could make the difference for victory. Trippi went on to suggest that Bush might opt out after Kerry has already opted in and thus tie Kerry's hands to only $75 million for the general while Bush could rake in the dough and bury him in the process.
I talked to two Kerry staffers about Trippi's observations, and both told me that 1) Kerry would not opt out because it would be too hard to raise the $75 million themselves in the remaining time and pass up what in essence is free money; 2) in order to pass up the $75 million and make it worth it, Kerry would really have to raise much more than that; and 3) they weren't worried about Bush opting out because the Bush people had told these Kerry guys that they would not do this.
I think the first and second points are questionable. Kerry has already raised over $185 million this season. $75+ million is not outside the realm of possibility over the next three months.
However, the third point is far more disturbing. Why in the world is there anyone in the Kerry team that places any value in an assurance from the Bush people? I thought they would have learned their lesson on this point already. Never take them at their word. They will screw you over every time.
I don't know if Bush will opt out after Kerry has already locked himself down. It's an option that carries some political risk. Americans, if nothing else, appreciate a fair fight. If the race is close, the perception that Bush is "cheating" when it comes to fundraising might make the difference to a significant number of swing voters. If played right, such a choice might be used against Bush in the Fall.
I don't know if this is something to seriously worry about. But I am concerned that there are people in the Kerry campaign who still trust the word of the Bushies. That is what seriously worries me.