Why is it relevant that Governor Palin has run her PAC better than supposedly more “experienced” past or future candidates such as Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, and Tim Pawlenty? The reason is that one of the best ways to evaluate how someone will run a presidential campaign is to view how he or she has performed in previous executive positions.
It’s difficult to make comparisons between the past executive experiences of Palin, Clinton, Obama, Romney, and Pawlenty because some would argue that you cannot compare legislative experience to executive experience and that geographical/cultural/regional differences make it impossible to arrive at a fair executive comparison between governors from different areas of the country. Therefore, the best way we can gauge how the aforementioned individuals would run a presidential campaign is to evaluate how the five of them performed through the one executive activity that they all had in common. All five of them ran PACs.
(Of course Clinton and Obama already ran presidential campaigns but the following analysis would have accurately predicted how the two of them would run presidential campaigns in 2008. The rumor is that Mitt Romney also ran something that resembled a presidential campaign in 2008).
How someone runs and manages a multi-million dollar PAC tells you something about how that person would run a political campaign. After all, operating a PAC tests your ability to convince other people to give you money and tests your ability to handle their money as effectively and efficiently as possible. The experience one receives from running and managing a PAC is probably the closest experience one gets to running a campaign as the two experiences share similar mechanics and dynamics.
The best way to compare the efficiency and effectiveness of different PACs is to compare their respective cash-on-hand/total receipts ratios. I believe the ratio is an extremely significant number because it tells you who knows how to spend money and how to save money effectively and efficiently. Under this metric, Governor Palin has clearly operated her PAC better than how Clinton, Obama, Romney, and Pawlenty have operated their PACs.
Here are the raw numbers (Obama and Clinton’s numbers are from the 2005-2006 cycle, which is the best comparison we get with the 2009-2010 cycle):
Obama’s Hope Fund: .153
Romney’s Free and Strong America PAC: .1224 (.084 if you subtract the amount of cash on hand that he started with at the beginning of the 2009-2010 cycle from the cash on hand his PAC has at this moment)
Pawlenty’s Freedom First PAC: .108
Clinton’s Hill PAC: .01
The few Romney supporters there are will claim that the reason why Palin’s ratio is higher than his ratio is because he donated more money to candidates than she did in the 2009-2010 cycle. However, even if you add the difference between the amount of money that the two donated in the 2009-2010 cycle to Romney’s cash-on-hand amount, her ratio is still significantly higher than his ratio. Romney appears to have either overspent on his staff or did not get the expected bang for his buck for the amount that he spent.
The fact that she has run, managed, and operated her PAC with a higher degree of efficiency and effectiveness than her supposedly more “experienced” peers tells you something about her executive ability and her potential to run a strong campaign. For better or worse, the person who runs the best campaign often gets to set the narrative for the election and the person who sets the narrative often wins. Based on the evidence that we have with her PAC, her supporters should feel optimistic that Governor Palin will run the best campaign of 2012.