John McCain effectively clinched the Republican presidential nomination on Feb. 5. However, his fund-raising since then has been dwarfed not only by Barack Obama but also by Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has been fighting a losing battle with Mr. Obama for the Democratic nomination.
Relative to his past performances, the $17.8 million in contributions Mr. McCain reported for April represented an improvement. After all, it was his best month so far this year. His April rake was equal to nearly 50 percent of the total contributions he received for all of 2007 ($37.5 million). But relative to what the de facto Republican nominee ought to be raising at this stage of the campaign and relative to what the two Democrats have each raised, April fund-raising by Mr. McCain was just another lousy effort.
After beating Mr. McCain on the money circuit during each of last year’s four quarters, the two Democratic presidential candidates have each delivered a repeat fund-raising performance during each of this year’s first four months.
During the first four months of 2008, Mr. McCain’s contributions totaled $55.7 million. Mr. Obama raised $55.4 million in contributions in February alone and $163.4 million since the beginning of the year. Despite her devastating third-place finish in Iowa on Jan. 3, which effectively solidified her status as the underdog Democratic candidate since then, Mrs. Clinton managed to raise $90 million in contributions during the first four months of 2008. That’s 61 percent more than has been raised this year by Mr. McCain, who, as noted, became the presumptive nominee in early February. Indeed, during the February-April period, Mrs. Clinton’s contributions were nearly 75 percent higher than Mr. McCain‘s; and Mr. Obama’s were nearly 200 percent higher than the Republican’s. In March 2004 alone, when Sen. John Kerry became the presumptive Democratic nominee after winning nine of 10 contests on March 2, he raised nearly as much ($43.4 million) as Mr. McCain has cumulatively raised ($44 million) during the three months since he has become the presumptive nominee. During the next four months, Mr. Kerry raised another $135.4 million. Mr. Kerry’s monthly average for individual contributions over the March-July period was $35.8 million, which is more than double what Mr. McCain was able to raise in April, his best month.
There appear to be two consolations for Mr. McCain, one comical and the other strategically lucky. Mr. McCain has been lucky because much of the fund-raising successes achieved by Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton have been used against each other. At the end of April, Mr. Obama’s cash-on-hand advantage over Mr. McCain ($46.6 million vs. $21.8 million) was far less ominous than his fund-raising advantage.
The comical consolation relates to this trend: While Mr. McCain’s monthly contribution totals have increased from $11 million in February to $15.2 million in March to $17.8 million in April, the monthly contribution totals for his likely general-election opponent (Mr. Obama) have declined from $55.4 million in February to $41.1 million in March to $30.7 million in April. Clearly, Mr. McCain should draw no solace from these trends. Besides, if Mr. Obama becomes the presumptive nominee after the Democratic primaries conclude on June 3, the accelerated flow of money to his campaign will become the equivalent of campaign-finance “shock and awe,” overwhelming even Mr. Kerry’s unanticipated financial windfalls.