Yesterday, John Edwards revealed he would accept government subsidies for his presidential campaign. An excellent Politico story on Edwards’ decision highlights the political implications of the decision while exposing some of the problems with so-called "voluntary" public financing.
Politico reports that earlier this year Edwards said that "avoiding the spending caps was the only way he could compete." Presumably, this was a recognition that spending limits directly limit a candidate’s ability to communicate with voters. In fact, in 2003, then Howard Dean campaign manager and current Edwards’ advisor, Joe Trippi said that any "campaign that opted into the matching-funds system has given up on the general election."
But now, unable to keep up with the fundraising efforts of his rivals, Edwards’ spokesman Eric Schultz says, "The focus on raising money has gotten out of control, and that’s why John Edwards wants to focus on the issues." Of course, by limiting his spending Edwards’ is directly limiting his ability to talk to he voters about the issues.
Ironically, by accepting the government subsidies not only will Edwards "qualify for an infusion of $6 million in January" at the time he "will need it most", but as a "bonus: He might grab an edge in the tug-of-war with Obama over who is the most ethical candidate and a new attack line against Clinton."