In a few days, the quarterly fundraising numbers for the presidential candidates are going to start being reported, and there will be huge doses of hype around who is ahead, and behind, and who is winning the "money primary." You can safely ignore most of it.
Clinton and Obama will be way ahead on the Democratic side, and Romney and Giuliani on the Republican side. Who edges out the other on each side by a million or two doesn't matter much at all: all four candidates will have plenty of money to compete aggressively through the first four states, and not nearly enough to run ads everywhere in the national primary on February 2nd. Fred Thompson will eventually have plenty of money as well, and John Edwards will be far behind Clinton and Obama and more stretched than them, but will clearly have enough to compete strongly in the early states.
Here are the only bits of news that may actually matter coming out of those quarterly reports:
1. Is McCain done? Not much has gone well for former maverick media-hero turned Bush lapdog McCain lately, including a pathetic first-quarter fundraising report. If the second quarter is just as weak, stick a fork in him.
2. Is there a second-tier candidate in either party raising enough to be a serious threat? Does Richardson actually outraise Edwards? Are there any Republicans outside of the big 4 (Giuliani, McCain, Romney, Fred Thompson) that have enough money to compete? Do Joe Biden's strong debate performances begin to gin up his money supply? If there are any fundraising surprises in that second tier, it may put them in play as they get more attention from the media and activists and get enough to compete in the all-important early states.
Ignore the hype. All four of the big money leaders from the two parties will have plenty, no matter who edges the other for the lead. It's what's going on beneath the hype that will make this money report interesting.
Mike Lux is the president of American Family Voices, an issue advocacy group sometimes described as the "free safety" of the progressive movement, and consults for progressive organizations and donors through his consulting firm, Progressive Strategies, L.L.C.