by Chris Bowers, Thu Apr 05, 2007 at 09:17:15 AM EDT
According to preliminary fundraising numbers released by the campaigns this week, the combined Democratic field raised about $80 million, compared with roughly $50 million collected by their GOP adversaries.In 1988, Republicans held a 6-1 advantage in early presidential fundraising. To a certain extent this gap did not matter, because no candidate was able to raise enough money to ditch the public financing system. In 1999, the gap had closed to about 5-2, but the problem was actually much worse since George Bush was able to ditch the public financing system and put Al Gore is a serious hole from March through August. Now, eight years later, with the nominees of both parties certain to ditch public financing limits for at least the primary election (Obama and McCain have a public financing deal for the general), Democrats hold a stunning 8-5 edge. It now looks very likely that we will have more money for the presidential election than will Republicans, which presents us with a noticeable structural advantage in the general from which we have never before benefited, and against which we have typically experienced the opposite end. This advantage will also free up the DNC to continue a focus on the fifty-state strategy and down-ticket campaigns. Under Terry McAuliffe, the DNC functioned almost entirely as a surrogate to the Democratic campaign for President, and we did not do well in the congressional elections of either 2002 or 2004.
In 1999, the last presidential race without an incumbent in the race, Republicans raised $33 million in the first quarter, compared with $13 million by the Democrats, according to the Campaign Finance Institute. The disparity was also evident in 1988, when the Republican field reported $19 million in first-quarter fundraising, compared with $3 million by the Democrats.(...)
The lag in donations extends beyond the presidential field. The Republican National Committee is expected to report $25 million in first-quarter revenue later this month. Last year, the RNC raised $32 million in the same quarter.
And in 2003, the start of the last presidential cycle, it collected $29 million.
The Democratic National Committee hasn't caught, or surpassed, the RNC, which has long been the political fundraising giant. Still, the DNC has reported raising more than $14 million in the first quarter - a $6 million increase over the same quarter in 2003.
It should be noted that the increase in fundraising for Democrats is not just due to an increase in small donors. The provision in McCain Feingold that raised the hard-money donation limit for individuals from $1,000 to $2,000 (and now $2,300) was a bit of a dirty bomb that has effectively muted the new explosion of small donors. Certainly, there are committees such as the DNC which did not previously rely on small donors and are now benefiting from it tremendously, and there are many isolated examples of underground, insurgent campaigns using small donors a either key to victory or at least a surprisingly strong showing, but overall the demographics of the donor class have not changed much. For example, only about 25-30% of the $80M Democratic 2008ers raised came from small donors, which is not a big change from Al Gore's donor demographics in 1999-2000. The current Democratic increase is coming just as much from large donors who give $2,300 as it is coming from anywhere else. On the one hand, this can be taken as a sign that the increase of progressive activism these past four years has infected progressive activists of all income levels, which is good. On the other hand, this might create roadblocks for us as we move down the path of economic populism, and I am not talking about merely an "image" problem. Will our candidates "owe" large donors more than in the past?
Whatever the answer to those questions may be, I admit that I enjoy no longer facing a financial deficit to Republicans on the electoral front. Then again, and I am really not whining when I write this, another article today reminds me of just how ironic these online fundraising totals can be...