Fundraising numbers for the second quarter for the presidential candidates were made available this week.
Barack Obama and the Democratic Party demonstrated an ability to attract both large and small donations and in total raised more than $86 million for his campaign and for the Democratic Party's coffers. Obama raised $47 million for his campaign directly, but was also instrumental in the $39 million raised by his party as most of this was due to a joint fundraising effort led by Obama. This dwarfs the $36.5 million raised by the top eight Republican challengers, a total that does not include Jon Huntsman's efforts as he did not have to report this quarter or the Republican Party's totals, which have not been reported as yet. Obama's numbers are particularly strong given that he will most likely not face a serious primary challenger and so can keep his fundraising powder dry until the general election.
While Obama is reported to have done quite well with bundlers and large donors, he also reported that 552,462 people donated during the quarter with an average contribution of $69 and that 98 percent of his donors gave less than $250.
Contrast that with Mitt Romney's fundraising disclosures. Romney disclosed that 70% of his total fundraising of $18,383,256 came from donors giving the maximum allowable contribution of $2,500. This means that almost $13 million of his total amount raised came from just 5,147 people.
Romney's numbers far outpaced his Republican rivals as both Ron Paul and Tim Pawlenty each reported raising just $4.5 million, Michelle Bachman raised $3.6 million (half of which was transferred from her congressional fundraising account) and no other Republican challenger was able to raise more than $2.6 million. But given that so much of Romney's haul came from so few wealthy donors makes one question the depth of Romney support.
Another way to see this is to ask how much money each of these Republican frontrunners raised from smaller donors giving less than $500 each. Here, Romney raised $1.5 million, as compared to the $3.1 million raised by Paul, the $2.8 million by Bachman and the $.6 million by Pawlenty from their under $500 donors. Bachman's effort is particularly noteworthy as the majority of her presidential fundraising occurred in the last three weeks of the quarter after the Republican presidential debate.
The Republican primary schedule is not favorable to Romney either. Romney has to survive Iowa, a state caucus he lost in 2008, only to head into New Hampshire a state that in 2000 chose renegade populist John McCain over the presumptive Republican presidential candidate and fund raising leader George W. Bush. Then it is off to Bible-belt South Carolina (where Romney's Mormon religion may raise questions) which holds its primary on the same day as Nevada, a state so rifled with underwater mortgages that a populous challenge from a Romney competitor might find real appeal. Romney's background as an LBO guy who made his money by firing employees, paying himself large dividends and then bankrupting businesses, is not going to play well with those suffering in this recession.
Not to discount the importance of money in politics, but right now, Romney's money lead among Republicans is large but not deep. It remains to be seen whether his 5,100 big contributors are a good predictor of where future big donors will place their bets or whether big Republican donors will fund whoever the front runner turns out to be after the initial primaries. My guess, in the long run, Romney will survive this particularly weak field of Republican challengers and that Obama's prowess in fundraising will scare away other potential Republican challengers like Jeb Bush or Chris Christie who will wait until 2016 to mount their presidential runs.
It is disturbing that it only takes 5,100 people out of country of 310 million to anoint a presidential challenger as the frontrunner and presumptive winner of the Republican primary. This is approximately .003% of the voting electorate, which says something about our democracy as it exists today.