There’s an interesting piece in Politico.com about the coming battle between Mitt Romney and Rick Perry for the hearts and minds of establishment Republicans. This matters, because once the shootin’ starts and actual primaries start coming fast and furious, it takes a large organization and lot of money to compete for delegates everywhere.
My years of political reporting have been an un-ending education about the importance of money to any political campaign. Those of us who care about policy and doing the right thing tend to focus on that, and forget that most people, even most voters pay only casual attention.
Take Philly Mayor Michael Nutter. Good government types and policy wonks saw his come-from-behind win in the 2007 mayor’s race – the first ever under city campaign finance limits – as a validation of the idea that when the rules are fair, the right people win.
But if Nutter hadn’t been so disciplined about raising money, making call after call, day after day, stacking up nearly $8 million one check at a time, his virtues as a candidate wouldn’t have mattered.
If you want to get a sense of where the competing presidential campaigns are in fundraising, this page from Open Secrets.org will give you a snapshot. You see that as of July 15, the last reporting date, Mitt Romney was way ahead of the GOP pack, with $12.7 million on hand. Ron Paul, known for his grassroots fundraising appeal had about $3 million, and Michele Bachmann had $3.3 million. Rick Perry is too new to the game to have filed a presidential campaign committee report, though this report says he’s assembling an impressive group of fundraisers. All of the Republicans’ committees are dwarfed by President Obama’s, which showed $37 million on hand.
Of course, this page doesn’t tell the whole story. Party committees, Super-PAC’s and other interest groups will have an increasing role as the campaign develops. But if you aren’t aware of Open Secrets, you should bookmark it for the next 15 months. It’s run by the Center for Responsive Politics, and is an indispensable tool for understanding power and money in politics.
And while we’re talking about money, are you as intrigued as I am with Starbuck’s CEO Howard Schultz organizing a boycott of political contributions until political leaders deal rationally with the nation’s fiscal problems?
It’s hard to believe enough special interests will put the national interest above their own to refrain from trying to buy influence, but I’ll lift a latte to Schultz’s efforts.