- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 1, 2007

It was a very rough week for Sen. John McCain, the erstwhile frontrunner for the Republican Party’s 2008 presidential nomination. And with second-quarter fund-raising totals to be released over the next several days, it is about to get even rougher.

First, the Supreme Court eviscerated a major provision of his signature legislative achievement — the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign-finance “reform” bill, which has long been despised by conservatives who abhorred its assault on free speech during elections. Then, the hugely controversial legislation Mr. McCain has been embracing for weeks — the Kennedy-McCain amnesty-for-illegal-aliens bill — was defeated in the Senate, but not before dragging down Mr. McCain’s stock with the Republican base, which hated Kennedy-McCain even more than McCain-Feingold.

By flip-flopping and then embracing the goal of making the Bush tax cuts permanent, Mr. McCain was beginning to distance himself from the fact that he and Lincoln Chafee were the only two Republican senators who voted against both the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. But then the Supreme Court decision and the Kennedy-McCain amnesty debacle struck. What’s precisely waiting in the wings for the second-quarter fund-raising we soon will know. That will compound Mr. McCain’s showing for the first quarter, when he raised only $12.7 million from individuals. That compared to $14.7 million collected by Rudy Giuliani and $20.6 million by Mitt Romney. (Interestingly, Mr. McCain raised more money — $300,000 — from “special-interest” political action committees during the current election cycle through March than any other presidential candidate from either party.)

At this stage of the Republican contest, according to RealClearPolitics, Mr. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, enjoys average leads over Mr. Giuliani of 4.2 points in Iowa (six polls: 5/12-6/24) and 8.2 points in New Hampshire (four polls: 6/4-6/24). However, Mr. Giuliani, the anti-terrorism candidate who was stung recently over the revelation that he was pressured to leave the Iraq Study Group (ISG) last year after he delivered a $100,000 speech in Atlanta and a $200,000 speech in Korea instead of attending ISG meetings, holds a 7.4-percentage-point lead (26.2-18.8) nationally over Fred Thompson. Mr. McCain was third (16.5 percent) and Mr. Romney was fourth (9.7), according to RealClearPolitics.

If the McCain campaign’s fund-raising performance was disappointing in the first quarter, the cumulative fund-raising totals for all 10 announced Republican candidates were perhaps even more disappointing when compared to the cumulative totals achieved by the eight Democratic candidates. Led by Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, each of whom received about $26 million in contributions from individuals, the eight Democrats raised about $78 million from individuals during the January-March period. That was nearly 50 percent higher than the $53 million collected by the 10 Republicans, offering strong indications that the Democratic base is far more energized at this stage. Second-quarter fund-raising will be very interesting.