McCain Has No Money; Obama Has No Debt: Weighing the Candidates’ Campaign Coffers

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Last Thursday was the deadline for the presidential candidates to file their latest fundraising numbers with the FEC. As we await the updates, it’s worth taking a look at their most current numbers, and what they may portend for the general election.

With the media focused exclusively on the battle between Clinton and Obama, Republican nominee John McCain has been spending his time shoring up support for his candidacy—and, presumably, fundraising. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, he really, really needs to: In the month of February, he raised just under $11 million, compared to $34 million for Clinton and $55 million for Obama.The numbers get worse when you look at the whole election cycle: in total, McCain has raised just $64 million, less than half of Clinton’s $170 million, and a third of Obama’s $193 million.

But what’s most striking is the debt. The Clinton campaign has amassed a staggering $8.7 million worth, double McCain’s $4.3 million. Obama, on the other hand, owes only $625,000. By campaign standards, he’s debt free.

What to make of this? If it were only about cash on hand, either Clinton or Obama could trounce McCain in the general election. But Clinton’s campaign spent nearly as much as it raised in February, while Obama’s used only about 80%. The combination of more funds to use and less debt to pay down would give Obama an unquestionable advantage in the general election. On the flip side, however, McCain’s getting a free ride right now. As long as the Democratic infighting continues, he may not need that much money to make his case. But once the general really gets underway, he’ll need to compete with an already-daunting cash lead and a horde of enthusiastic donors. If dollars are what count, McCain loses.

—Casey Miner

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