Barack Obama has become the first major-party candidate to opt out of public financing since Watergate.
It's no big surprise. When it comes to fund-raising, Obama is a virtual ATM machine. Candidates who take public financing get about $85 million to spend in the 2 months before the general election. But, if Obama can tap into the 1.5 million donors who contributed to him during the primaries along with Hillary Clinton's donors, some predict he could raise as much as $500 million – which would put him at a tremendous advantage over John McCain, who says he'll take public financing.
Experts say Obama could use this money to run a national ad campaign similar to marketing drives run by companies like McDonald's and Nike. He'll also be able to compete in Republican states, where the GOP rarely gets competition.
The downside for Obama is he's opened himself up to charges of hypocrisy. Last year he vowed to work with the Republican nominee to "preserve a publicly financed general election." And he's now drawing fire from both friends and foes for this change of heart.
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