- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 27, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

When he effectively wrapped up the Republican nomination on Tsunami Feb. 5, John McCain completed one of the greatest comebacks in American political history. Unfortunately, while spending much of the subsequent 12 weeks taking well-deserved victory laps, Mr. McCain has also apparently taken a worrisome vacation from fund-raising.

The McCain campaign recently filed yet another disappointing fund-raising report (this one was for March) with the Federal Election Commission. The presumptive Republican nominee raised only $15.2 million last month. In February, which included 24 days after he clinched the nomination, Mr. McCain raised only $11 million. That was actually less than the $11.7 million he raised in January, before he effectively clinched the nomination. Granted, the $38 million he raised during the first quarter exceeds the $37 million he raised throughout 2007. However, his first-quarter rake is dwarfed by the January-March contributions of $133 million raised by Barack Obama and $69 million collected by Hillary Clinton.

Interestingly, Mr. McCain’s total contributions from individuals through March ($74.6 million) are actually less than the $75.3 million that then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush had raised through March 2000 on his way to the nomination. Not only has the general price level increased by 25 percent since March 2000, but the maximum primary-campaign contribution that an individual could give to Mr. Bush during the 1999-2000 cycle was $1,000, which is $1,300 below today’s individual limit of $2,300 for the primary season. Moreover, the 1999-2000 fund-raising era pre-dated Howard Dean’s 2003 pioneering exploitation of the Internet as a fund-raising tool.

It is also interesting to note that John Kerry’s contributions from individuals totaled $74.6 million at the end of March 2004. That’s the same amount that Mr. McCain has raised in the current cycle through last month. But Mr. Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential standard-bearer, did not clinch his party’s nomination until he won nine of the 10 primaries held on Super Tuesday (March 2). Then the Democratic money began to flow his way in torrents. After raising only $31 million from individuals during the previous 14 months, Mr. Kerry collected more than $43 million in March 2004 alone as the presumptive nominee. Over the next four months, his individual contributions totaled $31 million (April), $30 million (May), $35 million (June) and $40 million (July). Between the time he clinched the nomination in early March and the Democratic convention in late July, Mr. Kerry raised $180 million. Since Mr. McCain clinched the GOP nomination in early February, he raised about $25 million through the end of March.

On March 31, 2004, four weeks after Mr. Kerry locked up the Democratic nomination, his campaign coffers had $32 million. On March 31, 2008, eight weeks after Mr. McCain did the same with the Republican nomination, his campaign coffers held less than $12 million. As Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton have been emptying much larger war chests battling each other, Mr. McCain has been squandering a golden opportunity.

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