The McCain campaign is now claiming what many of us election watchers have known all along. Since presidential candidates can coordinate with party committees, McCain and the Republicans actually have more cash on hand than Obama and the Democrats. From a McCain conference call earlier today:
On a conference call just now with reporters, Rick Davis said that the campaign currently has over $26 million on hand, plus the RNC's over $67 million. They expect to have a total of $210 million between September and Election Day alone -- and a total budget of over $400 million for the pre-convention and general-election cycle.
For comparison, the current McCain/RNC total is about twice the combined Obama/DNC cash figure through the end of May, though the June numbers from after Obama sewed up the nomination have yet to be released.
McCain and the Republicans are not just sitting on this cash either, as they are also significantly outspending Obama on paid advertisements:
"We have spent up until last week probably over $10 million more than Obama has in the last two months on television advertising," Davis said, adding: "From April to this point, we've spent almost three times the amount of TV spending that Obama has."
However, what does a $10 million advantage mean when the entire campaign is taken into account? The reason I ask is that, as of May 31st, Obama had already spent just over $107 million on paid media during this campaign, while McCain had only spent just over $18 million. In other words, Obama has already invested $89 million more in paid media to define his image than John McCain. It is hard to imagine that McCain, even with RNC assistance, will ever make up such a large gap.
It should also be noted that Obama only has to raise $86 million from September 4th through Election Day in order to outraise McCain during that time period. Given that there is typically a dramatic increase in campaign fundraising during the final two months of the election, especially for candidates with large small donor bases, the Obama campaign will surpass that total without breaking a sweat. So, it isn't clear that Republicans and McCain will maintain this edge during the entire election.
There is also the question of just how effective paid advertising actually is in the general election matchup. Looking at the McCain vs. Obama national polling chart, two events clearly had far more impact than any paid advertising could ever hope to accomplish:
First, Obama's numbers dropped precipitously during the Reverend Wright episode. Second, his numbers grew rapidly immediately after securing the nomination on June 3rd. These free media events had a much larger impact on the campaign than paid media.
Now, it still isn't great that McCain and the RNC have a joint fundraising and current paid advertising advantage. No matter the situation, it isn't great to be outspent on the airwaves, and to have less money than your opponent. Still, I just wanted to provide some perspective, arguing that the current Republican edge isn't quite as bad as it appears.