Second Quarter Fundraising: How Much is Enough?

The only presidential candidate who’s let his April-June fundraising number leak so far is Jon Huntsman – after two weeks, he raised around $2 million and added around that much more of his own money.

This is a much slower-starting presidential race than 2008, or even 2004, and the economy’s worse than it was in either of those years. The candidate’s own numbers are going to matter less than they ever have, because of the attractive nature of 527s and Super PACs that are springing up to bracket certain candidates. Mitt Romney’s team suggests that he’s raised less than $20 million. If so, that’s less than American Crossroads GPS is spending on one national ad campaign blaming the economy on Barack Obama.

What can the numbers do? They can hint at who’s successfully building momentum; when the timing of donations and numbers of donors are known, they can suggest an awful lot. As we wait, here are the fundraising numbers for Democrats and Republicans in the second quarter of 2007.

The Republicans broke down into three categories: Frontrunners, dark horses, and fringe. In July 2007, the frontrunners who proved that they had put together real campaigns were Romney ($21 million), Giuliani ($17.6 million), and McCain ($11.6 million). The candidates that saw a path to a breakout in Iowa, or the endorsement of one wing of the party, did terribly – Brownback ($1.4 million) and Huckabee ($0.8 million). Ron Paul ($2.4 million) actually came in fourth place in raw numbers, which augered his rise as a Republican intellectual force that the horse race press basically looked at once in a while, muttered “huh,” then ignored.

We’re not going to see two candidates clear the $10 million bar. Only Romney is suggesting that he has. So there could be a bunching-up in the single digits between the candidates who’ve put together campaign teams that the press respects – Huntsman, Pawlenty – and the movement candidates who’ve really caught fire, Cain and Bachmann. What will be really instructive about Pawlenty’s numbers are the small donations that came in after the New Hampshire debate. I got every impression that conservative voters were angry about Pawlenty’s whiff on “Obamneycare.” Were they really?