What if Kerry spent that campaign money of his in an unusual way - rather than just running the standard ads, what if some of that money went to things like hurricane relief in Florida, or to dealing with other actual real-life issues where people were suffering? Maybe throw $10 or $15m around to various states and non-profits to try to actually improve the quality of life for people? Can you imagine if Kerry showed up at the head of a fleet of trucks of workers and supplies (or whatever) someplace and if all of the people that he brought with him were wearing Kerry/Edwards shirts?
Now, before you accuse me of just using peoples' emotions to try to score Kerry some points, think of it this way. If you have to make the public aware of your actions and get your name out there to win, and you can either spend money on a political ad, or spend money doing something that will get you lots of free press, if both get you a similar amount of goodwill, then you've broken even, right? But spending money on people will have another side effect - it will improve their lives. So maybe that $10m won't be quite as effective as running ads (although I'd argue that if they played the media right it could be a lot more effective!) but imagine the difference it would make to the actual people that benefited from it. And think of this - if one of the campaigns just personally spent the money to help you when you were out of house and home or whatever, wouldn't that make a real difference when it came to place your vote? If the meal you fed your children, or the books you gave them for school, were given to you by one of the campaigns, don't you think you'd remember that in November?
So you might argue "Well, Bush can just do the same thing!". And my response to that? EXACTLY! How great would it be if rather than getting into an escalating battle of advertising, they got into an escalating battle of good deeds and donations? Obviously, you can't ignore advertising and other efforts, but if each campaign even gave 10% of its funds to helping people directly, how great would that be? If we have to be cynical and win people over, why not win them over by actually improving their lives right here, right now, rather than broadcasting promises of what you'll do next year?
I know, it's a bit crazy, but c'mon, you can't deny that it's got some real appeal, no?
(Update: Incidentally, does anyone know enough about campaign finance law to tell me if that's even legally possible? I wouldn't be surprised to hear that there are rules preventing them from doing that sort of thing, limiting how they can spend their money. It makes sense, but it'd be disappointing. Anyways.)