"This is why Barack Obama is hedging from his pledge to accept public financing for the general election."
"So, he's changing his mind as the circumstances warrant?"
"Isn't that cynical?"
"Depends. He could argue that the collective action of 1,000,000 people voluntarily deciding to contribute money to his campaign is much more democratic than a government-imposed levy on the taxpayer."
"But wouldn't McCain be able to say that Obama is putting political expediency before principle here?"
"He could say that. But what's the principle? When Obama agreed -- and I do think he agreed -- to accept public financing if the Republican did, he had no idea that he would be able to fund his campaign from a donor base that was so broad as to essentially remove from the table the appearance of corruption or unfairness."
"But it's not fair to McCain."
"Exactly. Obama is orgnanically more exciting than McCain.""
"Hold on. There's a structural imbalance, too. Democats are raising much more money from the internet and have done so, ever since Howard Dean pioneered the phenominon in 2003."
"Well, actually, John McCain kind of pioneered this in 2000, when he raised $1,000,000 the week after winning the New Hampshire primary. But I concede the point. One of the biggest structural disadvantages the Republican Party faces over the next generation is that they haven't found an alternative source of revenue. The older generation of ideological and corporate donors are fading away. There is no replacement cohort."
"I still think Obama is fudging on a pledge."
"And McCain will certainly argue as much. But if Obama gets 1,000,000 people to contribute $100 dollars for the general election, McCain will be forced to someone construe that as a bad thing for democracy."
Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.