Wednesday, January 23, 2008

McCain Bulks Up on Fundraising

Reports out this morning suggest that John McCain is seeking an infusion of cash to compete effectively against Mitt Romney in the next round of primaries. Here's this from The Hill:

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has scheduled at least seven fundraisers in the week leading up to Tuesday’s Florida primary, scrambling to raise enough money to compete with a rival who can loan his campaign tens of millions of dollars.

McCain held a major event at the St. Regis hotel in New York City Tuesday evening that advisers estimated would raise close to a million dollars. McCain has also scheduled several fundraisers in Florida, advisers said. He has planned events in Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, Miami, Tampa and Jacksonville.

On Monday, the night of President Bush’s State of the Union address, McCain will hold a fundraiser with his Senate supporters at Charlie Palmer Steak House on Capitol Hill.

By packing his schedule with fundraising events, McCain has risked devoting less time to stumping for votes at a critical moment. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R), by contrast, has made campaigning his top priority and relegated fundraising to an afterthought, said a Giuliani ally.

The winner of the Jan. 29 primary is widely expected to have a big advantage heading into Super Tuesday on Feb. 5, when 21 states will hold Republican elections.

McCain advisers say the strategy is necessary because they expect his rival, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R), will spend millions of dollars of his personal fortune to advertise in California, New York, New Jersey and other Super Tuesday states.

McCain supporters said they will not be able to match Romney’s personal war chest after Florida but vowed to raise enough to compete.

“We’re going to be able to fully fund a Florida campaign with a multi-million dollar television advertising buy,” said a McCain adviser.

The McCain ally acknowledged that advertising in Feb. 5 states would be difficult because they contain so many expensive media markets — New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Atlanta. Yet those hold the bulk of votes in key Super Tuesday states.

Ken Goldstein, director of the Wisconsin Advertising Project, estimated a week of thorough advertising in California might cost between $4.5 million and $5 million.

“Can we match Romney because Romney can raise a lot of money by writing himself a check?” the McCain adviser asked. “No. But we don’t need to match Romney.”

McCain has taken the necessary steps to make his campaign eligible for public matching funds, but advisers say there is no chance he will accept them as long as he has a shot at the nomination. That’s because public funding would limit McCain to a $21 million spending ceiling until the GOP nominating convention in September. Experts say that approach would put McCain at a significant disadvantage to Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) or Barack Obama (D-Ill.), who have set fundraising records this election cycle and are expected to have large sums of money for the general election.

If McCain accepted public funds, the money would then be used to pay off a $3 million line of credit he secured at the end of last year, an adviser said. McCain is eligible for $5.8 million in matching funds, according to the Federal Election Commission, a paltry sum in the context of the colossal scale of this year’s fundraising landscape.

McCain is touting a message that he is better known nationally among Republican voters than Romney, advisers say, and he does not need to spend as much money on advertising to introduce himself to voters. They also contend that the scope of the Feb. 5 contests is so vast that not even Romney will have enough money for ads reaching more than a fraction of the electorate.

Recognizing this, McCain is counting on heavy media exposure to spread his campaign message far and wide. He is hoping for favorable news coverage in the wake of his victories in New Hampshire and South Carolina and what he anticipates to be a strong showing in Florida.

Independent experts agree that so-called earned media — exposure through news and entertainment outlets — can often be more effective than television ads paid for by the candidate because it comes from an independent source and sometimes reach more voters.

“Earned media is more important than unearned media on Super Tuesday,” said Michael Toner, former chairman of the Federal Election Commission. “Earned media is vital.”
Not just vital, earned media's propelled McCain forward since his New Hampshire win. Indeed, the virtual blanket coverage after the Granite State primary - and then the substantial McCain media barrage after the South Carolina win - has put Romney at a disadvantage, forcing him to dig deep into his fortune to remain competitive on Super Tuesday.

Still, McCain's need to take time for fundraising puts his Florida campaign at risk. A McCain win in the Sunshine State - now that Fred Thompson's left the race - is more important than ever. The conservative opposition to McCain among the right-wing media and blogosphere is intensifying, and thus a victory in Florida could keep the media and momentum rolling in McCain's favor, helping to convince rank-and-file fence-sitters to hop on the McCain bandwagon.

See also Jay Cost at RCP's HorseRaceBlog, who indicates just how powerful the inside conservative oppposition is - and the quite possible chance that the anti-McCain movement could succeed.

the New York Times suggests that McCain's picking up major support from New York's GOP establishment.

There's more analysis at