McCain Fundraising Surge

John McCain is “closing the cash gap” with Barack Obama, Jeanne Cummings reports for The Politico.

For the first time in the campaign, Republican John McCain in May raised about the same amount of money, $22 million, as Democrat Barack Obama.

McCain also closed the gap in the amount of cash in the bank the two parties’ presumptive nominees have at their respective disposals as they enter the first phase of the general election. McCain reported having about $32 million in cash for primary related expenses at the end of May. Obama reported having $43 million in hand at the start of June—but about $10 million of that is dedicated to the general election.

Obama’s fundraising in May marked a sharp fall-off after months of record-breaking donations. Even in difficult times, such as when he suffered a key loss in Pennsylvania in April, Obama brought in a steady flow of cash that usually topped $30 million a month.

The surprising cash parity between McCain and Obama means the candidates begin the general more evenly matched than many experts expected, although things could change quickly given Obama’s ability to raise money quickly through small online contributions.

This actually isn’t that “surprising” at all. Obama and Hillary Clinton set records for fundraising during their epic primary battle, to be sure, tapping both an intense desire by Democratic partisans to take back the White House and intraparty motivation to beat the other candidate. Now, Obama has clinched the nomination and the fact that he has gobs of cash on hand and should be able to outspend McCain by an at least three-to-one margin in the general election has been widely reported. So, of course, his donations are going to slow down for a bit.

By contrast, the Republican Party is not only in a deep malaise but spent the primary season either split between a number of candidates or with a presumptive nominee and no urgency to give money. Now that the McCain-Obama matchup is set and Republicans are starting to get motivated by the fact that they’re behind in the polls and are in danger of being seriously outspent, the sulking is over and the party faithful are gearing up to beat Obama. So, of course his fundraising totals were going to surge.

This, incidentally, is why I thought and continue to think that McCain was a fool to agree to public financing and the $84 million limit that comes with it. Even though Obama would likely outraise him, it’s almost inconceivable that McCain couldn’t do much better than $84 million. The only real advantages to accepting public funds are that he can spend less time raising money and he gets the “but Obama lied” issue, such as it is. I don’t think that’s a good trade-off.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. yetanotherjohn says:

    When does McCain have to make a “final decision” on public fundraising? Or to put it another way, can he, and until when, change his mind?

  2. James Joyner says:

    When does McCain have to make a “final decision” on public fundraising? Or to put it another way, can he, and until when, change his mind?

    I don’t know offhand. Of course, he’d look mighty stupid changing his mind after making such a stink about Obama flip-flopping on the same issue.

  3. DL says:

    One thought on why the Dems may have less than otherwise is because the Hillary camp must surely have a noticable number of “I will vote for him but I won’t send him money” – the same as the McCain conservative problem.