Election 2008

Obama campaign money
Jae C. Hong/AP

McCain or Obama: Whose Campaign Has More Money?

November 03, 2008 05:32 PM
by Liz Colville
Several media sources have reported that the Obama campaign has exceeded McCain’s purse by tens of millions. But the RNC has made the financial race much tighter.

RNC Out-Raised DNC by Millions

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Most media reports about the leading presidential candidates’ money stick to the numbers of the individual campaigns. But the money the Republican National Committee and Democratic National Committee have in the bank can’t be discounted from the McCain and Obama campaigns’ totals.

The RNC is significantly more endowed than the DNC, a fact important enough to be mentioned in a weekend e-mail the Obama campaign sent to supporters. Its author, campaign manager David Plouffe, wrote, “Yesterday the McCain campaign said they would outspend our campaign by $10 million in the final days. This is on top of recent news that, as of October 15th, our opponents had $20 million more in the bank than our campaign and the DNC combined.”

Indeed, Bloomberg reported on Oct. 23 that the RNC “headed into the final three weeks of the presidential campaign with more than $59 million to spend, while its Democratic counterpart had $11 million.”

But what exactly do these funds mean for the presidential candidates? “Both the RNC and DNC can spend money on their nominees’ behalf though they aren’t allowed to coordinate all the spending. Both committees use cash for advertising and efforts that also benefit other party candidates.”

Background: One last financial push

In the final weekend of the 2008 presidential election campaign, prominent members of both the McCain and Obama campaigns sent out e-mails to supporters asking for last-minute donations. Reuters reported that Ill. Sen. Barack Obama’s wife Michelle and campaign manager David Plouffe sent out separate e-mails on Thursday, Oct. 30, and Saturday, Nov. 1, asking supporters to help fund campaign efforts in swing states like Florida and Pennsylvania.

The McCain campaign, meanwhile, acted similarly, with Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin sending an e-mail Friday asking supporters to contribute to the $5 million the campaign needed “in the next 72 hours to help fund our final get-out-the-vote efforts.”

Ariz. Sen. John McCain has “lamented” the fact that Sen. Obama has raised nearly twice the amount of money, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports. John Samples, a campaign finance scholar at the Cato Institute, interviewed by the Tribune, said the public campaign financing system that Sen. McCain chose to use is “a mess” and is “certainly not serving any of the purposes it was supposedly set up to do.”

Obama is the first presidential candidate to eschew the public campaign funding system since 1972, when it was first established.

Due to Obama’s success attracting campaign donations, more politicians may choose not to accept public funds in the future, as Obama has done. His campaign raised $150 million in September alone, bringing his total to about $639 million since announcing his candidacy, by the Star-Tribune’s November 2 estimate.

Reference: How public campaign funding works

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