First the Fundraising Reports,
Then the Campaign Fallout
The end of a fundraising quarter is a tense time for every presidential campaign.
A relative quiet tends to settle over the campaign trail in the days before candidates close the books on a fundraising period, but the release of the totals of how much a campaign has actually raised often serves as a prelude to unrest. That was certainly true at the end of the second quarter in June, when Sen. John McCain was forced to jettison much of his operation upon discovering the campaign had burned through almost all of the money he had raised.
And it there are plenty of signs there will be quakes when third quarter numbers begin to emerge on Sunday. Most notable, at this point, was word yesterday that Sen. John Edwards had abruptly decided to accept public matching funds.
Edwards's senior political team argued that the decision was purely based on principle. That they were going to enter the public financing system because it showed they were totally free of the fundraising impurities that would have come with trying to bundle their way to $100 million. Senior adviser Joe Trippi said the campaign would end the quarter with between $8 million and $9 million in the bank, an amount that would have permitted them to remain outside the public system if they had wanted to do so.
But campaign finance experts said the move had a whiff of desperation, because the financing system imposes some strict limits on how much Edwards will be able to spend in the critical early states. When McCain first announced he was considering taking public funds (he's still pondering), Democratic strategist Steve Elmendorf described the move this way: "The spending limits are just too low. It's fatal. It's not doable. On either side."
The Edwards move may not be the only drama to come out of the third quarter finance reports. Republican Mitt Romney appears poised to dump significantly more of his own fortune into his campaign effort -- a possible sign that he had trouble raising the money from donors this quarter. At a speech in California Wednesday, the Associated Press reported that Romney -- who once said donating to his presidential campaign would be a nightmare -- declared that he had "contributed significantly to the campaign" and added "I presume I will again."
Through June, the former Massachusetts governor and venture capitalist had contributed $9 million to his campaign, nearly a quarter of his overall contributions.
"I don't like the fact that money has such an impact on politics, but this to me is a reason I'm investing at least as much as everybody else -- probably a little more," Romney said, according to the AP report.
There is also uncertainty about the results Republican Rudy Giuliani will post. Those around his campaign have been predicted a solid quarter for the former New York mayor. But Wednesday came word he had decided to fire his campaign's finance director. Whether that signals a money downturn is unclear, but won't be for long.
Then there is the matter of the many candidates from both parties who have plowed ahead to this point without much money to burn. If history is any help, these end-of-quarter hours are tough times for candidates on the bubble.
In October 1999, Elizabeth Dole said she was dropping out because she could not raise funds to compete with George W. Bush or Steve Forbes. Bush had raised more than $60 million, and that Forbes was able to rely on his personal fortune. Dole--who had raised $4.7 million in the first nine months of 1999--said she would have had enough money to compete in Iowa and New Hampshire, the states with the first presidential caucus and primary, respectively, but not in the rest of the country. "It would be futile to continue," she said. A few days earlier, the former vice president, Dan Quayle, had withdrawn his candidacy, saying he lacked the money to compete with Bush.
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