Barack Obama released his August fundraising numbers today, and it was an impressive haul: $66 million — the best month ever for a presidential candidate. Interestingly, Obama’s campaign hasn’t addressed why they felt compelled to release this information a week earlier than they had planned. Given the spate of bad news about the direction of the campaign, you have to think it was to stanch the flow of bad stories and to change the focus to a more favorable topic.
After his strong August, Obama had $77 million in cash on hand to start the month. He’ll undoubtedly add tens of millions more in September and October (stories about money problems notwithstanding). But is his cash advantage really all that great?It isn’t when you consider that Howard Dean’s DNC is still unable to pick up its fundraising pace. While Obama has touted his fundraising numbers from the hilltop, Dean is hoping you won’t notice that he raised just $17 million in August, and how has just $17.5 million in cash on hand. In June, the DNC had raised $20 million. In July, they had their best month of the cycle — $28 million — with the same amount in cash on hand. In August, despite a convention that ‘brought the party together,’ and which presumably activated Hillary’s donors, they did terribly. And instead of having a healthy pool of cash to help Obama and the Congressional campaigns, the DNC trails the RNC in cash on hand by $93 million. There’s no reason to expect that gap to do anything but grow either, given that the last few weeks have seen an end to the ‘enthusiasm gap,’ as well as the general realization that McCain is no worse than tied in this race. With these new developments, Republicans ought to be able to tap donors who were formerly apathetic, or saw no reason to back a weak campaign.
The likelihood is that the overall money situation for McCain and other Republican candidates should do nothing but improve over the next two months. Obama won’t be able to buy this election, and Democratic candidates in red states and districts won’t have the big cash advantage that they need to win in places where the registration is against them. The DNC is acting like an anchor on the overall Democratic campaign this year; Republicans owe Howard Dean a debt of gratitude.