This week, things are pretty clearcut. We are in the final stretch of the second quarter of 2007 fundraising and the candidates in both major parties are vying for position. And as a result, focusing their efforts on the money game.
Their public campaigning is essentially an ancillary activity, designed to show that they are doing more than fundraising.
But not all that much more.
The Democrats are heartened by the collapse of the Bush presidency in the polls — now close to the historic lows achieved by Richard Nixon in the height of the Watergate scandal over three decades ago. Add to that, the record numbers who say that America is on the wrong track with the – at best – slow developing surge strategy in Iraq, and it is little surprise that they are, by all accounts, raising substantially more money than their Republican counterparts.
The outstanding question is this: Will the tyro freshman senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, once again raise more money for the primaries than the longstanding Democratic frontrunner, Hillary Clinton? Most of my sources, in both camps, say that he will.
The competitive action between the two leading Democratic candidates, leaves the third member of the Democratic first tier, 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards, lowballing his numbers.
Cyberpolitics guru Joe Trippi, who masterminded Howard Dean’s short-lived front-runnership for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination in the pre-scream days, sent an e-mail to supporters late last week saying the Edwards campaign is right on track. Raising substantially less money than it did in the first quarter of 2007, when Edwards was already overwhelmed by the strength of Clinton and Obama is on track? Okay.
Meanwhile, keep an eye on leading second tier contender Democratic Bill Richardson, the New Mexico governor and former UN ambassador who has moved into fourth place in the early states, who says he may raise more money than Edwards.
Most of the Republicans will also be scuffling for cash next week. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is expected to lead the way financially yet again, with former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani pulling in second – a reversal of their standing in national polls. John McCain is in, as his advisors might put it, in survival mode. Having come back from the seeming dead just two months ago after a disappointing start, the Arizona senator and Vietnam War hero is once more in big trouble, due to his co-authorship of the comprehensive immigration bill.
That bill, which may be revived in the Senate this week after its seeming demise earlier this month, is smothering McCain’s candidacy. While it has received, at best, mixed tidings among national polls of all voters, it is extremely unpopular among Republican primary voters. The sooner it is resolved, one way or the other, the better for McCain, who must again revive his candidacy with his fundraising again trailing that of Romney and Giuliani.
Of course, the real action on the Republican side is around Fred Thompson, the former Tennessee senator-turned-TV star who is exciting many disaffected conservatives. Democrats are much happier with their candidates than are Republicans (notwithstanding the fact that their two frontrunners are a second-term senator best known as a controversial first lady and a first-term senator who was a state legislator just over two years ago.)
Thompson journeyed to Britain last week to polish up his foreign policy gravitas and found mixed tidings. His hawkish policy speech on Monday, in which he seemed to call for regime change in Iran with a US blockade to force the way, was balanced by an interview later in the week with the Times of London in which he said that a new “realism” will be in store for America after the Bush years. While he did meet with former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, still a major icon for conservatives around the world, it was not a dramatic occasion. But the void in enthusiasm on the Republican side continues nonetheless, and Thompson does have the chops to take advantage of it, at least for a while.
This week, he is back in the USA and will continue his undeclared candidacy with trips to his home state Tennessee, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. Some say he will make an announcement in Tennessee this week. While I’m sure he’ll announce something there, it won’t be his candidacy, which now seems slated for July. New Hampshire is a state where Thompson needs to do some serious work. South Carolina, on the other hand, is a state where he has taken the lead in the new Mason-Dixon poll. And he has just pulled ahead in Nevada, as well.
Nevada and South Carolina are two of the first four states in the nomination process, the other two being Iowa and New Hampshire. Thompson is in the hunt in Iowa, where Romney leads after spending megabucks on TV advertising (no other Republican is doing that) and trails in New Hampshire (where the former governor of next door Massachusetts also leads, also after spending megabucks on TV advertising).
Also on tap this week in presidential politics is the handover of the British prime ministership from staunch US ally Tony Blair to Gordon Brown, the current chancellor of the exchequer. That’s finance minister to us.
How this plays out will have a major impact on US foreign policy, as Britain has been America’s only consistent ally in the military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the overall war on terror.
Intriguingly, the only American official on hand in London prior to the hand-off and meeting at the Elysee Palace today with new French President Nicolas Sarkozy California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger — the highest-profile American politician who is not running for president.