And meanwhile, John McCain raises funds, vets veeps and avoids the hammer

While Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are battling for their party's nomination, John McCain is thinking ahead to the general election, is looking to pick up his fundraising and introduce himself to voters before the Democrats' start attacking him.

Today, the campaign revealed it had raised $15 million in March. Since McCain looks assured of choosing public financing for the general election (and get $85 million to spend from early September to Election Day), those $15 million raised are almost entirely primary funds, which the campaign can use until its end-of-summer convention. (This makes it difficult to compare McCain's total and Clinton's announcement that she raised $20 million, which does include general election funds).

$15 million is a mixed total for McCain; it is certainly an improvement from previous months, but it should only partially reassure Republicans who were starting to get worried by McCain's anemic fundraising. It remains much less than Barack Obama's March total, confirming that McCain will be at a significant financial disadvantage in the coming months.

It is important to understand what we mean when we speak of "primary funds" and "general election funds." The latter sounds more important, but general election funds kicks in at the convention -- not at the end of primaries. And as such they will only be used for two months. Primary resources are used for much longer, and they are the ones that fund campaigns throughout the summer, a time in which many candidates are often broke.

McCain will have to pick up his fundraising in the coming weeks to survive all the way to the convention. But Politico's Ben Smith brings good news to Republicans this week by reporting on the failure of Democratic groups to attack McCain as early as possible as they were planning to early this year:

Democratic talk of an early, hard-hitting campaign to "define" and tar Arizona Sen. John McCain appears to have fizzled for lack of money, leading to a quiet round of finger-pointing among Democratic operatives and donors as McCain assembles a campaign and a public image relatively unmolested.

Groups like the Campaign to Defend America fell short of their funding goals and, despite testing messages and running an ad in cheap parts of Ohio, largely gave up on their efforts to define McCain. Most funds from Democratic voters are going to the campaigns of Obama and Clinton at a time other groups were hoping to get some attention as well. This is naturally a huge relief for Republicans, who a few months ago were really worried about how McCain was going to able to answer early attack ads with practically no money in the bank at all and no general election strategy.

Another big advantage the McCain campaign is deriving is a head start in the vice-presidential process. At this time 4 years ago, the Kerry campaign was way on its way towards interviewing potential taps; this year, Clinton and Obama have certainly not started the long vetting procedures (and consider that they don't even know yet if they will have to tap each other). Meanwhile, the McCain campaign is considering its list already and can even benefit from testing names in the media.

The media buzz over the past 48 hours has been Rice's supposedly campaigning to be picked as McCain's running mate, and the Senator's comment that he had not noticed that she was interested. He even proceeded to criticize her by saying that all those who contributed to setting up the initial failed Iraq policy (of which McCain now claims he has always been a fervent opponent) "bear some responsibility."



  • It's definitly good news for McCain that the Democrats are more focused on each other than him, and that is why I believe at the current moment he has an advantage in the general election. However it's still a very small advantage, as his attempts to introduce himself and put in a positive impression is drowned out by the Dem primary and I believe that dem nominee (almost certainly Obama) will regain a tiny lead starting in early/mid August if the race effectively ends on or before July 1st like how Howard Deans wants.

    By Anonymous jaxx raxor, At 07 April, 2008 19:55  

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