The aftershocks from last week's fundraising numbers were still reverberating through Your Nation's Capital this weekend as everyone tried to make sense of:
1. How did Barack Obama manage to out-raise Hillary Clinton in Primary Election money, when Hillary had a head start of months, if not years?
A. Even so, how is it that Obama remains between 7 and 24 percentage points behind Clinton in the national polling?
2. How did Mitt Romney manage to out-raise the rest of the GOP field by 50% and yet remain in single digits behind (or even with) both Fred Thompson and Newt Gingrich in national polls?
3. How did McCain manage to come in dead last in fundraising among the first tier candidates on either side and still be only slightly behind Giuliani in Iowa and even or ahead in New Hampshire?
Responding to the talking points as put out by the Democratic National Committee, the Washington press corps was eager to ask anyone who would answer their phone whether the amount of money reported raised by all Democratic candidates (about $78 million) compared to the amount raised by Republicans (about $51 million) indicated the GOP as we know it was about to disappear?
When I pointed to the fact that in just about every poll either Rudy Giuliani or John McCain leads either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama in head-to-head match-ups, I heard the polite equivalent of a mental "click" as the reporter hung up the intellectual phone.
POLITICAL PUNDIT LESSON:
When a Conventional Wisdom Wave is building, paddle like the devil and ride it in.
You won't get quoted by swimming into it.
END POLITICAL PUNDIT LESSON
Reviewing the bidding from last week: The Clinton camp was celebrating like a rookie running back scoring his first NFL touchdown after announcing they had raised $26 million.
Obama didn't report until Wednesday, when he came in at $25 million - within the margin of error. But that wasn't all. It came to pass that nearly all of Obama's money was earmarked for the primary season; six million of Clinton's contributions were listed for the general election, meaning Obama actually beat Clinton in primary contributions.
The Clinton camp had to sheepishly stop doing their end zone victory dance and pretend, instead, that this was all part of some cunning, long-term plan.
Not only that, but Obama's camp claimed 100,000 individual donors, to Clinton's 50,000. It is a fact of post-McCain-Feingold life that an individual can write a check to a candidate for Federal office for as much as $2,300. But once you have written that check, you can't give any more.
If you are Obama, and the huge proportion of your contributors have given about $100, you can go back to those donors 22 more times.
At some point, everyone will catch their collective breath and realize that perhaps the amount of money raised in the first quarter of the year before the election is actually going to be held, may not mean very much.
We've talked about this before, but it bears repeating now: For political professionals, the only thing that matters - whether it is some news item, or debate outcome, or new ad, or fundraising numbers - is: Does it move the numbers?
We will know pretty quickly how much of a polling bounce Obama gets out of the first quarter fundraising numbers, but we will not know for about nine more months whether the totals released last week will have mattered to caucus goers in Iowa or voters in New Hampshire.
Waves of conventional wisdom have a habit of crashing ashore with great fanfare then, like real waves, quietly washing back out to sea to disappear as if they had never happened at all.
On a the Secret Decoder Ring page today: A link to a useful webpage in tracking political money; a Mullfoto showing the dangers of GLOBAL WARMING! And a Catchy Caption of the day which will make you … Well, I'm not certain what it will make you do.
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