Wednesday, November 23, 2005

What's the Bottom Line?

So over at Hotline they posted the numbers for all the campaign committee for both parties through the end of the Third Quarter. Some interesting figures:
  1. The RNC has raised almost twice that of the DNC ($88.5M to $47.6M)
  2. The RNC has more than a 5 to 1 advantage in cash on hand over the DNC ($34.3M to $6.1M)
  3. The RNC's burn rate (79.3%) is nearly 14% less than that of the DNC (93.2%).

So looking at these numbers, it's all over right? I mean, the DNC is being out raised, has a huge disadvantages in cash on hand, and a high burn rate. Numbers don't lie. Statistics aren't misleading or anything. Naturally we can expect the DNC to be blown out by their Republican opponents.

Or not.

I've said this before, and I'll probably say it again several more times, but I'm convinced bottom line thinking like this is just not going to hold as much sway as it once did. Aside from their DSCC, the Democrats are getting beat pretty bad in the fundraising end of things. This is not unusual however, as in fact the DNC is having record fundraising years. But compared to their opponents they are getting hosed. But there are some important points these numbers don't tell. And just like the DNC, the numbers don't tell everything about the Cegelis campaign either:
  1. Roskam as out raised Cegelis by more than 4 to 1 ($679K to $160K)
  2. Roskam has an 11 to 1 cash on hand advantage ($550K to $49K)
  3. Roskam has a much better burn rate (37% to 95%)

Due to the focus on small donors and lack of party support for Cegelis, the bottom line misses several important point about the Cegelis' campaign that mirror in many ways what the DNC's number don't show.

The DNC is national. It has access to a network of small and large individual donors that a local race, like IL-06 does not. The pool in just too small. So where is Roskam getting his money from? Considering Cegelis has more than twice the number of donors than Roskam, one would think she'd have raised more money, right? Well when you consider nearly half (49%) of Roskam's donors gave $1000 or more while half of Cegelis' donors gave $300 or less, it becomes pretty clear that Roskam is tapping a different audience.

And just like the DNC, the audience that Cegelis is tapping focuses on the small donor. Just as the DNC has almost ignored the corporate lobbies in DC and looked to the people for funding, so has Cegelis. The DNC did so as a change in practice, Cegelis did so out of necessity and grassroots beginnings. The small donors Cegelis has tapped are mostly the in-district donor. The donor who will give not only money, but time. The donor who will talk to his neighbors and volunteer to GOTV. Roskam's $1000 donors, on the other hand, are buying influence. High dollar fundraisers in DC, thrown on Roskam's behalf by none other than Tom DeLay, have helped Roskam to tap the DC fat cats, and flush his campaign with cash. Cash to buy votes through paid media, not community interaction.

And just like the DNC, Cegelis has a burn rate that is over 90%. The DNC under Dean's leadership is implementing their 50-state strategy. They are laying down infrastructure, setting up offices, hiring staff. The Cegelis campaign is doing the same. They are hiring campaign staff, building their on-line resources, and working with experienced consultants to get the most from their fundraising dollars. The DNC sees this as building a foundation for the future. The Cegelis campaign sees their burn rate as building a foundation for the general.

Finally, unlike the DNC or Roskam, Cegelis has gone it alone. Roskam has big name Republicans out campaigning for him. He has Hyde and other Republicans throwing their weight behind his campaign. He has Tom DeLay throwing $500- $1000 a plate fundraisers for him. He has the RNC and NRCC pushing his campaign and helping him raise money. Cegelis has virtually no support nationally from her party. With the DCCC actively working to undermine her campaign,her fundraising has naturally suffered.

Money is important in politics. There is no removing that fact. And I don't mean to completely dismiss traditional yardsticks like fundraising and cash on hand. But bottom line thinking does not show all the cards in this race, just as it does not show the foundation being laid by the DNC.