The news today that President Obama has raised $86 million for his campaign and the Democratic National Committee in the last three months has to encourage Democrats who will rightly feel this haul shows their party is well on their way to another record-breaking fundraising effort for a presidential election. But despite the efforts in some quarters to compare the combined totals of the Republican presidential candidates unfavorably to Obama’s figures, there is no reason for the GOP to be discouraged by these numbers.
First, despite the much ballyhooed number of $86 million, that should not be treated as Obama’s total when comparing his fundraising to that of his potential Republican opponents. The president raised a staggering $47 million for his campaign with the rest going to the DNC. It is true the figure dwarfs even the largest totals raised by a Republican — Mitt Romney’s $18.25 million — but that is exactly what you’d expect for an incumbent running against an open field of contenders from the other party. The party that has control of the White House always has an enormous advantage in raising money, so while Democrats can be glad they surpassed their goals for the last quarter, this ought not to be interpreted as an indication that 2012 will be a Democratic year. Nor is it necessarily a signal, as some would have it, of disinterest in the GOP candidates.
The fact is, other than Romney, the most compelling figures in the Republican race are just getting started raising money. Rep. Michele Bachmann has vaulted ahead in the Iowa polls and is establishing herself as a first-tier threat to the frontrunner, but she has yet to report her totals from the last three months. Of all the numbers that come in by the July 15 reporting deadline, Bachmann’s will be the most interesting since it will give us a better idea of just how successful her grass roots Internet campaign has been. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, another potent threat to Romney’s status as the leader, hasn’t even decided whether he will run.
Although Obama will be swimming in cash throughout this election cycle, whoever emerges from the GOP scrum won’t be caught short. Once the primaries are sorted out early next year, there is little doubt the eventual winner will begin to haul in the usual large amounts that will fund a vigorous general election campaign. The concentration on the candidate’s totals also ignores the fact groups that are not directly connected with a campaign, such as Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and its various counterparts on the left, will spend much of the money raised in the next 18 months.
Obama’s cash balance is impressive, but his ability to rake in contributions was already a given. That will be an undoubted advantage for the president next year. But despite the focus on the money primary, it is the numbers that measure unemployment and growth that will determine who wins in 2012, not fundraising totals.