As usual, the money tells the story this week. On the Democratic side of the presidential race, after all is said and done, Barack Obama has more than matched Hillary Clinton’s fundraising, including her transfer of more than $10 million from her New York Senate race romp last year.
Obama, equalling her in conventional fundraising and besting her on the Internet, has $33 million cash on hand to her $32 million.
In addition to the fact that much of Hillary’s money can’t be used in the Democratic primaries, since he has well over 250,000 contributors to her – well, her campaign still won’t say how many contributors it has – his unprecedented edge for a tyro challenger is likely to grow as the campaign goes on.
While a private poll shows Obama starting to close the gap in the California primary, here is the real news. In terms of money raised this year that can be used for the Democratic primaries, Obama has bested Clinton by an eye-popping $57 million to $41.4 million.
On the Republican side, John McCain will attempt to restart for the third or fourth time following the meltdowns of his once frontrunning candidacy over the issues of Iraq, immigration, and money. While he raised over $11 million in the second quarter of this year, he spent virtually everything he’d raised in anticipation of the illusory goal of raising $100 million for the year. That’s a goal he was falling precisely 50% behind in the first half of the year.
Indeed, virtually all Republicans — while not in the straits of McCain, who may have tempted fate for the last time with his wildly unpopular authorship of the failed comprehensive immigration bill — are not only trailing their Democratic counterparts but are tailing off in general.
Rudy Giuliani, who still leads in most polls, though not in the earliest states, has actually done best. Mitt Romney, off to a great start in the first quarter, is staying competitive only by chipping in “loans” from his personal fortune. McCain, we know, is a disaster area.
Then there is Fred Thompson. Many expected him to declare his candidacy over the 4th of July, which I predicted he would not. Now, after some promising but not overwhelming ventures into early primary states — following a less than wildly successful foray to Britain to establish himself as a world statesman and gain the favor of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher — there is some equivocation about when he will declare his famously undeclared candidacy for president. While Thompson has shown the ability to use new media, there is still no substitute for conventional means — if this didn’t hold true the likes of the Daily Kos would be more than a massive irritant for professional Democrats.
Thompson forces had hoped to raised $5 million last month. (Since he is undeclared, he does not yet have to report his takings.) But word on the street is that is he merely raised something over $2 million. At this pace, his formal announcement may come in August. Which is not, shall we say, the most opportune time to announce a presidential candidacy, being as most Americans are paying virtually no attention to politics then.
Back to the Democrats, who, were it not for Clinton’s personal unpopularity and Obama’s marked lack of experience would be virtual shoo-ins given the amazing unpopularity of the Bush Administration and its policies in Iraq and elsewhere.
John Edwards, the 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee who was the most conservative top Democratic contender that year and has now transmogrified into the most liberal top contender this time around, is trying on Bobby Kennedy’s shoes with a poverty tour. He’s raised about half as much as Hillary and little more than a third as much as Obama for the primaries. Yet he clings to a lead in Iowa, the first in the nation caucus state known for its ultra-liberalism and public employee union appeal. He and wife Elizabeth had a few big events last week in Nevada, the second-in-the-nation contest, where many thought he would have a huge breakthrough, but drew far fewer people than have Clinton and Obama.
This political week does not revolve around a big event, as did last week with the NAACP convention in Detroit. There, Obama finally bested Hillary in a joint appearance.
The former first lady had decidedly mixed results from her decision to bring in her husband, the former president, to campaign with her in Iowa and New Hampshire. Despite how her campaign sought to program their events — affording Bill far less time than Hill — he tended to overshadow her. And bring up the old issues of the 1990s. Which should surprise approximately no one.
Meanwhile, Obama has just had a national strategy committee meeting in Chicago. He began picking away at Hillary’s facade in the last week, increasingly engaging her on the issues. During the run-up to the next big event of the campaign, a full-on debate on July 23rd in Charleston, South Carolina, that is something that is likely to continue.