Kate ponders a current paradox:

Curious, isn’t it, that the latest polls claim that Bush’s popularity has slipped so low that he’s in danger of losing the next election and yet, when it comes to fundraising, the Democrats are struggling to scrape up the dough?


Of course, there are nine “major” Democrats running right now. I suspect they’ll raise more money once the field winnows. But Bush definitely has a commanding lead over the competition.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2004
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head 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. John says:

    Uh, the answer is that Republican’s have an awful, awful lot of money? I mean, what does his donor list look like? Y’think it might be that it doesn’t represent the electorate all that well? Also, please note that the combined total of all the nine democrat’s fundraising equals the prez.

  2. john says:

    John, I think Bush is enjoying what is commonly known as “the advantage of being an incumbent”.

    The Democrats may have an equal amount of money, but they’ve still have a nice bruising primary season to go through, for at least 4 or 5 of them.

  3. joy says:

    DOH, what was I thinking? You can all have a little giggle at my expense for the apparent impersonation.

    Sorry about that John, but rest assured, I’m probably a cuter Democrat than you. ;-P

  4. James Joyner says:


    Dean Esmay has some good data showing the opposite is true. See here and here.

  5. James Joyner says:

    Joy/John: We want pics!

  6. John says:

    James, whenever I see anyone trot out that map I just have to wonder what the heck that person is thinking. This is not a population distribution map, it’s a land area map. And unless you’re telling me that people are evenly distributed over the entire united states, then I think you’re smoking crack. The question I asked, which you didn’t answer (no problem if you don’t want to) is what is the demographic make up of Bush’s donors. You answered me with a non-answer.

  7. James Joyner says:


    I think the point of the map is to demonstrate an alternate way of thinking about the election, which is that the Framers designed a geographically representative system for picking presidents rather than a purely democratic/ population based one. But that map wasn’t the object of my link. 🙂

    The relevant portion of that post was further down:

    the fact of the matter is that for some time now, Democrats have easily raised as much money from wealthy donors as Republicans. In “soft money,” money given to political parties, the Democrats and Republicans have been at parity for some time. In “hard money,” given directly to candidates, the donation limit has long been $1,000, and Republicans have generally done better with that. This is not, however, because they have more rich supporters. It’s because they have more support among modestly affluent suburbanites and rural voters: middle class homeowners, small-time investors, farmers, and other small business owners and self-employed workers, who can afford to contribute a few hundred bucks every now and then.

    Worse for Democrats, the recent campaign finance reforms in Washington, aside from the inexcusably and horrendously unconstitutional parts, tend mostly to benefit Republicans. This is because Republicans are arguably less dependent on very wealthy donors than Democrats. A seemingly endless supply of limousine liberals has been keeping Democratic coffers full for some time, but starting in 2003, that so-called “soft” money will be strictly limited. But the hard-money donations cap has been raised to $2,000. While Democrats may have more very wealthy donors than Republicans, they don’t have something that forms the real backbone of the Republican party: the growing tide of self-employed workers, small business owners and suburbanites who fear today’s Democratic Party and who are quite capable of ponying up $2,000 to stop a destructive class-warfare agenda.

    Possibly the worst kick in the teeth is that, of the areas of the country that are losing population, most of those went for Gore, while most of the growing areas went for Bush.

    It is entrepreneurs, small-time investors, and small business owners who are the strength of the American economy. It is also they who are the real source of most GOP fundraising dollars and votes. To whatever extent money wins elections, it is the Republicans who will have most of the advantages when the new reforms kick into effect next year.

    A similar argument with links is made in the other post.

    Contributions for individual candidates are capped under 1974 law and even moreson under McCain-Feingold. The GOP is actually better at raising small donations–it’s the Democrats who have been most reliant on large money contributions. This has become well established in story after stoy. See this one, for example.

  8. John says:

    Well, thanks for the clarification. However, I still don’t see anything more than speculation. Is there any hard data on what the demographics are for the donors to Bush’s campaign? Again, there seems to be only speculation and hearsay… I’m not saying that things aren’t as you claim, I’m just wondering if there’s more to the claim other than “gee, this is what I heard from some guy”. After all, that’s how urban myths are created.

  9. Meezer says:

    I’m one of the “rich” Republicans, and so are most of my friends. Many are converts from the Dems.
    I am: Self-employed; a woman, college educated, lower-middle class income. I gave the Repubs $50.00.
    My neighbor gave $200. My best friend gave $125. *That’s* where the Rep.’s money is coming from.
    Our town is pop. 3,500 with a lot of *ex* steel-worker Democrats. No one was listening to them so they came on over.

  10. John says:

    Well, that’s a great story. But still not hard data. Looking on the web I found this. Not saying this is definitive, but it’s the only source I could find so far. What’s interesting to note is that of the 19,325 contributors, 12,327 are in the 2,000+ range. Hardly looking like a grass roots style image you’re portraying. Again, I hardly take this web page as gospel, so please don’t slam me for it. But it is rather funny to note that the combined total number of contributors to John Kerry and Howard Dean rival that of Bush. Add in all the other Dem candidates and it swamps the number of Bush contributors, in numbers and in actual cash raised. So, granted there’s a split in the democrats as to who is going to lead, but it’s pretty clear that there are heck of a lot more democrats contributing to the campaign than there are republicans. And once the winner is determined, they’ll all throw their support to that one winner… Again, just idle speculation, but it is very interesting to look at the actual numbers – as murky as they are – rather than listening to second hand reports from some guy on a bar stool in the Republican party bar.

  11. James Joyner says:

    But, John, President Bush is running unopposed for the nomination right now:) Of course he’s behind in the number of individual donors in the primaries. Dean, especially, is getting nickel and dime donations on his website.

    I’m a little dubious of the “$2000 plus” column, as $2000 is the individual limit. $2000 donations isn’t necessarily proof that they’re millionaires are the money.

    I think the argument has been that in the last few elections, Republicans have gotten more $200-type contributions than the Democrats, who had to rely on soft money from the parties to compensate.

  12. John says:

    Yea, I’m curious as to that one as well… But looking elsewhere on the site, it actually looks like the Pres and Al Gore were pretty much tied in the $200 contributions (source). 10.5% vs. 10% So I’m not sure that assertion really holds (again, awaiting better data)

  13. James Joyner says:

    John–Yep, I saw that chart as well. So, either the argument is based on something other than the presidential race (some sort of aggregate, maybe?) or it’s not correct. I’ve heard it repeated by enough sources that have no apparent ax to grind that I tend to believe it, but don’t have the numbers handy.

  14. John says:

    Well, I’ve been getting more than suspicious of arguments that are repeated enough that they become accepted facts… On both sides, mind you. Everyone knows that lemmings jump over a cliff… Except they don’t (look it up). Too many axes to grind even though they don’t appear to have one.

  15. James Joyner says:

    Discussion continued here.