The National Journal reports: “Texas Gov. Rick Perry kicked off his presidential campaign with an aggressive fundraising schedule that quickly made him a front-runner for the Republican nomination. But reports his campaign filed with the Federal Election Commission show that his ability to attract big money fell off steeply in September — perhaps not coincidentally — at the same time a series of rocky debate performances threatened his early front-runner status.”
In fact, it is hard to argue that there isn’t a connection between the two. “Perry’s three worst fundraising weeks coincided with a series of weak debate performances. Perry’s halting style, inability to hit talking points, and apparent fatigue toward the end of the debates sent his poll numbers plunging,” National Journal reports.
Not surprisingly, Mitt Romney’s fortunes have gone in the opposite direction. A Romney senior adviser tells me, “Our fundraising was consistent with steady growth and peaked near the end of the quarter.” Romney’s strong debate performances and then receiving the endorsement by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) contributed to a flood of new donors this month.
This is not surprising. Fundraising prowess is more than having a network of contacts. It is the ability to convince donors that your campaign is viable. Over the past month Romney had a better hand to play in making that pitch; Perry had a weak one.
I suspect that Perry’s campaign will not see an influx of cash until he can demonstrate in debates, policy rollouts and polls that he is a real contender for the nomination. Although we won’t know the fourth-quarter numbers for quite some time, you can bet that, as long as Romney performs well in the debates and maintains his position in the national and state polls, he will outpace Perry in fundraising. That may make a difference in the critical month of January, when campaigns must operate in multiple states and be broadcasting in expensive media markets (e.g., Florida).
This is one more bit of evidence that money follows success in a presidential campaign. It often reflects past performance and current excitement about a candidate. Those who complain that they have to drop out because they are out of cash are merely confirming that they never sold activists and donors on their campaign.