Politico’s Jeanne Cummings has a story on the dollar gap that is opening between the Dems and Republicans. It is large and growing, and a complete turnaround from the ordinary situation. So, what is going on?
There are three answers.
First, the top tier GOP presidential candidates are equally matched and there’s a lot of money on the sidelines waiting for the main event to begin. When a strong frontrunner emerges who begins to take the campaign to the Dems, especially on the war, the contributions will flow. If Romney is that nominee, expect some serious 527 efforts as well funded by his extraordinarily successful colleagues in the world of investment banking. Rudy Giuliani, too, will not lack for cash if he is the nominee.
The disparity in cash on hand between the campaign committees of Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate are much more significant, and harder for the GOP to fix. The Dems are enthusiastic about adding to their majority, and recognize that if they can keep if through this cycle it will be theirs for some time. Though pressed by the anti-war fringe into absurd ploys and defeatist rhetoric, the Dems can count on their foot soldiers in the unions and the groups to keep sending in the small contributions, whether by payroll deduction or on a voluntary basis.
The Republicans have a double disadvantage.
Quick, name one GOP House candidate challenging a Democratic freshman. That’s the first problem. The House GOP has done almost nothing to present the face of the comeback, and until it does, don’t expect a lot of enthusiasm or contributions from the base. Show me 20 Republican challengers, including a bunch of vets with service in Iraq and Afghanistan who are running on a platform of victory, and the House coffers will start to fill.
The problem in the Senate isn’t a lack of candidates, it is that some of the candidates are not merely old and uninpsiring, some, like Orgeon’s Gordon Smith, have gone over to the defeatist ranks. Others like Domenici of New Mexico and Warner of Virginia sit on the fence. There is simply no way that even the most committed Republican activists are going to give money to the National Republican Senatorial Committee and see it work for Smith’s re-election, or the re-election of other Republicans not committed to victory in Iraq.
When the GOP’s senate challengers to defeatist incumbent Democrats emerge in Montana, Louisiana, Iowa, and Arkansas to join Bob Schaeffer in Colorado, there will be some rallying to them if they run on a victory platform, but not until then, and then only into the campaigns of the individuals. I got another e-mail from Senator John Ensign today, a good conservative who chairs the NRSC, asking me to contribute to the Committee to help turn back Hillary Clinton’s assault on talk radio. Now, you’d think I would respond to that, right? Not a chance, because I know that my contribution would end up helping Gordon Smith. Keeping the Fairness Doctrine at bay means almost nothing compared to a loss in Iraq that allows al Qaeda to establish a new home base, and trying to appeal to donors in any way that ignores the debate over the war will fail. When the GOP caucus in the Senate serves notice that it won’t be sending money to the defeatist rump in its midst, then donations will pick up. Until then, save the stamp, or the e-mail.