Barack Obama raised more than $30 million in the month of March, a campaign official told TIME on Tuesday.
Though the official would not provide an exact number, he did say, "The number starts with a three and we are still counting. It's in the 30s."
As of Tuesday night, the Clinton campaign had not released its March totals. But one Clinton campaign adviser hinted that the New York senator's total for the month will come close to $20 million. That estimate could not be independently confirmed.
Remember that after debts, Obama entered March with $33 million that could be spent in the primary period, while Clinton's net cash on hand for the primary (after accounting for her mounting debts) was a paltry $3 million.
The cash imbalance shows up in the campaigns' spending on television advertising. As Chuck Todd pointed out yesterday, last week Obama outspent Clinton on television 5-1.
Were Clinton to finally acknowledge that she won't be the nominee, step aside, and let Obama focus on defeating John McCain, Obama would be able to outspend McCain by an even larger margin than he's outspending Clinton. Early speculation has McCain raising less than $13 million. McCain has not been able to bring the Bush fundraising network together on his behalf:
Even though he all but secured the Republican nomination by mid-February, Mr. McCain has so far managed to enlist only a fraction of the heavyweight bundlers of campaign contributions who helped drive President Bush’s two runs for the White House, an examination of Mr. McCain’s fund-raising network shows.
Well over half of the top fund-raisers for Mr. Bush, who raised a record $274 million for him in the 2004 primary season, stayed on the sidelines through this year’s Republican nominating contests. Others wound up working for Rudolph W. Giuliani, who signed up the most top Bush fund-raisers, and Mitt Romney, who had about the same number as Mr. McCain.
The dearth of Pioneers and Rangers, the elite fund-raisers for Mr. Bush who collected more than $100,000 or $200,000 respectively for his re-election bid in 2004, is illustrative of just how far Mr. McCain has to go to build up his financial operation.
McCain's struggles aren't due to any failure by Bush to throw his support to McCain. Unlike the Senate and Congressional campaign committees, where Democrats are slaughtering the Republicans in fundraising, the RNC has a very large cash advantage over the DNC. Bush is working to keep that advantage:
With Bush leading the way, the RNC has taken in $108 million during this election cycle, and had $25 million available cash at the end of February, records show. The comparable figures for the Democratic National Committee: $62 million raised, with $4.8 million unspent.
While those aren't Obama-esque numbers, it's money on the Republican side that will certainly be put to good use in the weeks and months ahead.
At the same time, the Democratic candidates will be doing more spending than saving, buying television advertisements in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Indiana and traveling extensively.
The White House regularly schedules presidential fundraisers to dovetail with out-of-town speeches and events. Last Thursday, for example, Bush took Air Force One to Dayton, Ohio to deliver a speech on the Iraq war and the fight against terrorism. Rather than return directly to Washington, he made stops in Bellbrook, Ohio and Sewickley, Pa. to raise money for the respective states' Republican committees at events in private homes.
Were he not encumbered with having to attend to Clinton's futile attempt to wrest away the nomination, he would be able to raise money for the DNC, and use his resources—not just cash, but also his time—against McCain. Instead he has to continue to hold off Clinton.
Why, if it's mathematically implausible that she could overtake Obama in the delegate count, is she staying in the race? As I've explained before, the only way she can become the nominee would be for something extraordinary to happen to Obama, something so awful that just about the entire Democratic electorate would conclude that he had become an unsuitable nominee. Now we have another possible explanation:
While some inside the campaign are concerned about whether Clinton will have the funds to match Obama in radio and TV advertising buys through May, others are worried about a different horizon. One Clinton adviser wondered whether that what he called the "massive debt" was beginning to hang over not simply the campaign but Clinton's political future. How, this adviser asked, can the campaign climb out of "the debt hole if we don't win this whole thing?" Facing a Senate re-election campaign in 2012, he noted, Clinton's choice is daunting: "If you have a $10 million debt when this thing is over, she has to pay it off, and then, four years later, raise $30 to $40 million" to wage a re-election campaign.
I'm inclined to believe that Clinton and her inner circle are still clinging to the increasingly fanciful hope that Obama will melt down and everyone will turn to her as the nominee. But if she continues to spend more than she raises, debt could become an unwelcome factor in her decision making, and one that could prolong the nomination battle and prevent us from directing our full resources against John McCain.
UPDATE At The Politico, Ben Smith reports that an Obama spokesman, discussing the article in Time about Obama's March fundraising, said "I don’t think it’s accurate.". That doesn't mean it isn't accurate, nor does it mean that it is accurate. We'll apparently have to wait until tomorrow for an official statement from the Obama campaign.