Advancing a Free Society

For One Day, At Least, the Road to the White House Goes Green

Thursday, June 30, 2011

To most Americans, Thursday of this week is and was remarkable only in how it figured into a long 4th of July weekend.

But if you work in presidential politics, June 30 is a red-letter day.

That’s because it marks the end of second quarter of 2011 fundraising – the last chance to inflate a campaign’s war chest before filing with the Federal Election Commission.

And why does this shady green-eyeshade business matter (here’s a Mitt Romney report summary, filed in March 2008, to give you a little taste)? Because, with a good six months still ahead before crunch time in Iowa and New Hampshire, there are only two statistical means for handicapping the 2012 election: money and poll numbers.

Two good examples of how the latter drive presidential chatter: this week’s Des Moines Register Iowa Poll that was good news for Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain and not-so-good news for Tim Pawlenty; this week’s Rasmussen Reports survey that shows President Obama losing to a generic Republican challenge.

As for how money will drive the summer conversation, let’s begin with a quick flashback to the last presidential election and what leading players reported for the second quarter of 2007:

First, the Democrats:

  • Barack Obama $33,103,605
  • Hillary Clinton $27,140,382
  • John Edwards $9,096,495
  • All Democrats $83,083,301


Now, the Republicans:

  • Mitt Romney $20,997,715
  • Rudy Giuliani $17,599,292
  • John McCain $11,591,694
  • Mike Huckabee $766,431
  • All Republicans $57,700,924

What do these numbers tell us about the state of the 2008 race in the summer of 2007?

Obama’s ability to out-raise Clinton added fuel to the perception of a genuine anti-Hillary uprising inside the Democratic Party. And the Democrats’ 44% edge in fundraising over that period was an ominous foreboding of an enthusiasm gap that would sweep Obama into office the following side.

On the Republican side, notice how the establishment money centered on three candidates while a fourth, Huckabee, found other waysto surge in Iowa – despite raising fewer bucks than the likes of Sam Brownback, Duncan Hunter and Tom Tancredo.

Presidential candidates have until July 15 to turn in their data to the FEC. But already some financial plotlines have emerged:

  1. The President’s Money Trouble. Turns out that it’s not just the federal government with a revenue problem – the Obama re-elect is dropping hints that it won’t reach its $60 million quarterly target. A few reasons why: Wall Street is miffed with the Administration; Jewish donors don’t like the Israeli policy; small donors are in an economic pinch. It’s just one of several glitches the President’s team has encountered in recent weeks.
  2. The Tortoise and the Hares. Team Romney says it will come in somewhere between $16-20 million. Like a stock’s earning report, let’s see how “the street” reacts to the numbers. Meanwhile, a host of other GOP hopefuls are trying online “money bombs” and 11th-hour solicitations – in general, attacking the Obama “money machine”. Another big haul by Romney – especially if, it turns out, he lowballed the expectations – cements his frontrunner status. Watch for Cain’s and Pawlenty’s numbers, as those two are going all-or-nothing in Iowa.
  3. Republican Enthu$ia$m Gap. In theory, the GOP hunger to regain the White House should translate to big dollars for presidential hopefuls. Maybe not so in 2011. It’s possible that the top-three Republicans combined won’t match the $36 million collected by George W. Bush in the first quarter of 1999 (and Bush did it with a $1,000 contribution limit vs. today’s $2,500). If that green continues to stay in the red, it doesn’t bode well for the GOP’s chances next year.

(photo credit: Obama-Biden campaign)