On Politics On PoliticsOn Politics
Analysis and perspective about what's happening in the political realm.

Financial Checkup

In five weeks, the presidential campaigns must close their books on the second quarter and begin preparing their reports to the Federal Election Commission on fundraising, spending, and cash-on-hand. Although it would be an exaggeration to say that this will be a make-or-break moment for any of the campaigns, their second-quarter reports will be important windows into how well each has been able to expand its financial base beyond home-state contributors, friends, and other natural allies.

Much of the cash raised during the first quarter was "love money" -- contributions from candidates' most loyal friends and supporters. But to be truly competitive, a presidential campaign must build many concentric circles of financial support beyond the candidate's Christmas card list and the ranks of previous contributors. News organizations, political operatives, rival camps, and, yes, even donors will scrutinize the second-quarter reports for indicators of who is building momentum and who is at risk of having their fuel tanks run dry.

Every candidate has something to prove. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., must show that his disappointing first-quarter fundraising figures were an anomaly and that he is now raising money at a pace competitive with those of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the GOP's first-quarter fundraising leader, and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, the GOP front-runner in the national polls. Meanwhile, Romney must prove that he has staying power in terms of fundraising. And Giuliani must show that, financially, he can go toe-to-toe with rivals who aren't carrying as much ideological baggage.

On the Democratic side, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois each raised about $26 million in the first quarter -- more than anyone else in either party. Clinton beat out Obama in cash-on-hand because she had $10 million remaining from her re-election campaign. When the second-quarter numbers are released, all eyes will be on this duo to see if one pulled well ahead.

Former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, in third place in both the national polls and first-quarter fundraising, is surely not going to be able to overtake either pacesetter by the end of June. But he needs to show that he can remain within hailing distance by raising at least half of what each of the leaders raises. Edwards's lead in Iowa polls also keeps him in contention.

Next, check Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., who chairs the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee and grabbed fourth place in first-quarter receipts, largely because of his success in tapping the financial services sector. Look to see if he can expand beyond his panel's jurisdiction.

Finally, keep an eye on New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who has begun to show some strength in early-state polling and came in fifth in first-quarter receipts. Watch to see if he manages to move up a notch.

All three top-tier Republicans must show that they can raise much more than they spend, that they can husband their resources -- something they failed to do in the first quarter. During the first reporting period, Romney's campaign spent 55 percent of everything it raised in that period, Giuliani's spent 39 percent, and McCain's had a scorching burn rate of 64 percent.

The Democrats weren't such free spenders. Clinton's campaign used just 19 percent of its first-quarter contributions, Obama's spent 26 percent, and Edwards's spent 24 percent. In fact, the top five Democrats' campaigns each spent less than one-third of its first-quarter receipts. At 56 percent, Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware was the only Democrat among the top seven to exceed one-third.

Of the top nine Republican fundraisers, only Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee managed to spend less than 33 percent of their total contributions for the quarter. Six of the nine spent more than half of their newly raised money, compared with only one of the seven top Democrats.

At this stage in the 2008 presidential race, the four most important measures of a candidate's progress are the FEC reports, Iowa polls, New Hampshire polls, and national polls. Any candidate who isn't in first or second place in at least one of those categories is running decidedly uphill.

Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.