Campaign ’08: Fund-Raising

It sounded like a stunning show of support. On Wednesday, the day after his loss to John McCain in New Hampshire, Mitt Romney raised more than $5 million for his campaign—not too shabby for a candidate struggling to regain momentum after losing the first two major contests of the presidential race. "An extraordinary success," Romney said of his day of fund-raising.

But if you look a little closer, the numbers weren't exactly what they seemed. According to the campaign, $3.5 million of that money—more than half of the total raised—was designated for the general election. In other words, Romney can't touch that cash unless he becomes the nominee, which is hardly guaranteed at this point. The real number that counts: $1.5 million, which is how much Romney raised for the primary. It's still a big number, but nothing close to the momentum his campaign talked up.

Romney isn't the only one trying to play the expectations game when it comes to fund-raising in the aftermath of New Hampshire. With the campaign shifting toward bigger—and more expensive states—how much money a candidate has in the bank could determine his or her future in the race.

We still don't know exactly where the candidates stand financially. The campaigns wrapped up their latest fund-raising quarter on Dec. 31, but they don't have to disclose how much they officially raised and spent until Jan. 30, the day reports are due at the Federal Election Commission. Some of the candidates have put out partial numbers, as well as tentative totals raised in the early weeks of this year, but we don't really know who has the cash to make it through the long haul.

Heading into New Hampshire, rumors swirled that Hillary Clinton's campaign was broke, a charge her campaign vigorously denied. Yet Terry McAuliffe, Clinton's national finance chairman who had been traveling with the senator in Iowa, headed back to D.C. on the eve of the New Hampshire primary to work the phones and raise cash. (He returned to the Granite State in time for results.) On Wednesday McAuliffe announced that Clinton had raised $24 million for the primary in the last three months of 2007—though he declined to say how much cash the campaign had in the bank. After her narrow victory in New Hampshire, supporters pumped an additional $1.1 million into her campaign coffers on Wednesday, and according to aides she's got an additional $5 million in online commitments. "We are thrilled and pumped up here," said Jonathan Mantz, Clinton's national finance director, in a conference call with supporters earlier this week.

But Barack Obama isn't hurting for cash either. Though he raised less than Clinton in the last three months of 2007—$22.5 million in primary funds—he's raised megabucks in the early weeks of 2008, in spite of coming up short in New Hampshire. According to the Obama campaign, the senator raised $7 million in the first week of the year—when he won big in Iowa—and another $1 million this week. The campaign has not said how much cash Obama has in the bank.

All told, Clinton and Obama each raised more than $100 million in 2007—a new record for fund-raising by primary candidates.

That's not good news for John Edwards, whose campaign has not even come close to the numbers put up by his rivals for the Democratic nomination. Edwards, who placed second in Iowa and a distant third in New Hampshire, is expected to report around $5 million raised during the final quarter of 2007. Aides say he's raised about $2 million since the beginning of the year. Edwards has qualified for about $9 million in matching funds, though he won't receive that money until March. To get by, his campaign has taken out loans using those funds for collateral—though aides won't say exactly how much he's borrowed. Either way, lack of money has made the situation precarious for Edwards, though the former senator has pledged to stay in the race as long as he can. "I'm in it for the long haul," he told reporters earlier this week.

The Republicans hoping to win the White House have been far less forthcoming about their money than the Democrats. Rudy Giuliani, who spent big in New Hampshire and Iowa in spite of the fact that he barely competed in those states, won't say how much he's raised but announced Friday that he had $7 million in the bank as of Dec. 31 (then again, news also leaked that his senior staffers were working unpaid at the moment, to help free up funds for advertising). Fred Thompson, who had to drop TV ads in Iowa just before the end of the year because of a lack of funds, hasn't disclosed any information.

McCain, whose campaign was on the ropes less than six months ago, has enjoyed a boost in fund-raising in recent weeks—though he and his aides have declined to release specific numbers. Rick Davis, McCain's campaign manager, told reporters this week that the Arizona senator has set online fund-raising records for his campaign in recent days, but it's the big checks that McCain will need to stay competitive. His campaign has scheduled two finance events in South Carolina on Friday, including a big fund-raiser in Charleston.

Like Edwards, McCain has qualified for matching funds, though he has not taken the money. Doing so would put limits on how much McCain can spend in upcoming states. Instead, to make ends meet, McCain took out a loan using the value of his mailing list as collateral. "We have plenty of money," Davis said. "We'll be fine through the primary."

Mike Huckabee may be the biggest fund-raising success in the field. Banking on his surge to the front of the pack, the former Arkansas governor brought in about $8 million during the final three months of the year—about four times what he'd raised during the previous nine months. Like the other candidates, Huckabee has declined to say how much money he has in the bank, though he has raised more than $2 million during the first two weeks of the year. "We're getting more bang for the buck," Huckabee bragged to reporters earlier this week.

Perhaps the biggest unknown in the race is Romney, a multimillionaire who has chipped in at least $17 million of his own money for the race already. Earlier this week the former governor confirmed that he had dipped into his fortune again, though he and his aides declined to say exactly how much he had anted up.

On Wednesday Romney, who spent almost $200,000 a day during the first nine months of last year, pulled TV advertising in Florida and South Carolina to concentrate his resources on Michigan. The campaign pushed back against speculation that Romney is out of money and spun the change as simply a strategic decision. "We'll have the resources we need to compete," Romney spokesman Kevin Madden told NEWSWEEK. Given Romney's willingness to spend his own money on the race, that seems certain.