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John McCain's got some serious money troubles

April 8, 2008 |  6:18 am

Wait one dollar-grubbing minute!

How can the troublesome twin Democratic candidates raise $60 million between them Arizona's Senator John McCain has the Republican presidential nomination sewn up, but he's lagging far behind Democratic candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in fundraisinglast month and John McCain scrapes together barely $15 million, according to campaign sources. And this is supposed to be so great? A successful month for this guy?

To be sure, Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are still donating their millions to TV stations all over Pennsylvania and North Carolina contradicting each other in 30 seconds or less, which is worth something to the Arizonan with the GOP nod sewn up. McCain is preparing to take maybe $85 million in public funds for the general election, which is a week shorter for the late-meeting Republicans.

But that means this interim run-up to the general election is a week longer. And $15 lousy million? For the Republican who's supposed to represent all the fat cats and big businesses? McCain folks tell fellow blogger Marc Ambinder that March was their best month and quarter ever. And tonight McCain expects to take in $400,000 from a banquet in Washington.

Whoop-dee-do!

Dr. Nobody, Rep. Ron Paul, the libertarian-like Texan who's a year older than McCain, raked in $6 million one slow Sunday last December from his motivated followers when everyone else was ...

thinking about Christmas. And then the congressman, who all but 803,000 supporters who voted for him so far dismissed as never having a chance at the GOP nomination, outpaced all the Republicans for that fourth quarter with $20 million.

McCain is in some kind of financial trouble. First of all, would-be Republican donors and voters are downhearted, apparently believing all the media hype and allegedly self-fulfilling polls about this being a Democrat year. They're voting less, caucusing less and giving less in state after state.

Additionally, there's a price to being a maverick. Over time, the folks you've mavericked, say, the kind of folks who didn't like your McCain-Feingold campaign finance reforms or the ones who lost out on that lucrative aircraft contract, they sort of drift away.

But most importantly, McCain is a horrible fundraiser. Always has been. Nobody in the political business likes begging for bucks, but they do it because they must. McCain hates it.

He's not one of those canape-crunching, conversation-making, how-about-those-D'backs kind of small talkers, can you please help a poor candidate out with a couple grand? And he's not been organized for it. He's especially not organized for small donor drives.

We saw the impact of this last spring and summer, when the alleged Republican front-runner's campaign imploded in disarray and overspending and McCain ended up flying solo again on commercial flights, crammed into Row 22F on US Air to South Carolina.

McCain over the years has proved particularly awful at organizing drives to tap small donors, not short people but the folks who give $100 here and there or $25 a month like Paul's and Obama's financial fans. Those are the folks you can go back to. Forty percent of Obama's donors last month gave less than $200. The figure for McCain was 24%; for Clinton even worse, 23%.

Obama's donor list totals about 1.3 million now. And he can reach every single one of them within the hour.

Last month Obama, who's assembled $230 million total so far, took in another $40 million, less than his stunning $55 million in February, but still twice Clinton's March donations. McCain's February total was a measly $11 million.

That's nearly $1.3 million a day for Obama last month, $900 every minute of every day all month, while McCain's finance folks were collecting about $336 a minute.

More importantly, Obama got that money from 442,000 donors, 218,000 of them brand new givers at an average of $96 per person. That's a lot of people -- voters -- buying into his effort. Who do you think they'll vote for to make it all worthwhile?

McCain sources bragged to Ambinder that $11 million of their $15 million came from large donors, big checks.

McCain needs help. His former adversary, Mitt Romney, who spent more than  $43 million of his own dough on his own campaign, has promised to raise another $15 million from Romney supporters later this spring. So if you already gave to the former Massachusetts governor, watch for that e-mail or envelope in your mailbox soon.

To someone who endured 66 months of solitary confinement, loneliness and torture in a dank Vietnamese prisoner of war cell, a stunning seven-month political comeback like McCain's in comfortable hotels may seem like a long vacation. So no one would ever underestimate the former flier's grit.

But to make a race of it in the fall, he's still gonna need more dough in the spring and summer.

-- Andrew Malcolm 

                                                                      Photo Credit: MSNBC

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