By Michael D. Shear and Matthew Mosk
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign burned through more than $8 million during the first three months of 2007, leaving the onetime Republican front-runner with only $5.2 million in the bank, less than half the cash remaining for each of his chief rivals for the GOP nomination.
The Arizona senator's campaign also listed $1.8 million in debts, including $207,000 on its American Express account, in a report filed yesterday to the Federal Election Commission.
By contrast, former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani reported cash on hand of $10.8 million and debts of about $89,000. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney had almost $12 million in cash and reported no debt.
The leading Democratic candidates are expected to announce their remaining cash today, when all candidates must file their first-quarter financial reports by midnight.
McCain's financial filing is the latest sign of the struggles to beset a 2008 candidacy once considered as the most formidable in either political party.
Late last year, McCain was considered the favorite to win the GOP nomination and a strong challenger to any Democrat. But since then, the Arizona senator has struggled to recapture the insurgent spirit of his 2000 presidential campaign.
His unstinting support for the Iraq war has cost him support among moderates, and his fundraising has failed to keep pace with his rivals, despite being led by some of the most experienced names in the business.
"We didn't do as well as we should," McCain told reporters last night after a speech in Des Moines. "It's probably my fault. We're going to do better the next quarter."
James Bopp Jr., a Republican National Committeeman from Indiana who has opposed McCain's campaign finance reform efforts, said he was shocked by the numbers reported yesterday.
"Particularly in comparison to the other candidates, it is truly devastating," said Bopp, who supports Romney. "Not only is his overall fundraising down, but the efficiency of his fundraising is very low. Efficiency is very important."
McCain raised $12.5 million in the first quarter, a figure that his campaign manager called disappointing. (The campaign updated that total yesterday to $13 million.) Within days, McCain announced he was overhauling his fundraising operation. He said last week that he is also trimming his staff and canceling some contracts with consultants.
McCain's spokesman said yesterday that the campaign's financial problems have been fixed.
"Our restructured fundraising operation . . . will provide more accountability and metrics to ensure fundraising success moving forward," Communications Director Brian Jones said. "To raise presidential dollars, you need an aggressive, smart, accountable donor program. We now have that."
Jones declared the campaign "pleased" with the 51,000 individual donors who contributed. Giuliani had 28,356 donors, while Romney had 36,538. And campaign aides said the fundraising is moving in the right direction, raising about $2 million in January, $2.9 million in February and $8.1 million in March.
McCain's money was spent building one of the presidential field's most sophisticated and complex organizations, which included about 120 staffers in the Crystal City headquarters and in early-primary states, aides said. McCain has also hired several high-priced campaign consultants who once worked for President Bush.
In addition to the American Express card, other large debts include more than $66,000 for motor coach rentals, presumably for use of the "Straight Talk Express" McCain made famous in the 2000 campaign, $152,267 to a Minnesota company that handles fundraising calls, and $16,317 in catering costs for an event at the swank Beverly Hilton hotel.
Kent Cooper, one of the founders of the PoliticalMoneyLine Web site, said McCain's level of spending seems more appropriate to a less-well-known candidate, who needs to earn name recognition and to invest in prospecting for donors, than to a front-runner.
"Those activities are extremely expensive," Cooper said. "Somebody who has already established a name identity, someone who has already established a successful fundraising list, their costs would normally be less."
Giuliani reported Friday having spent $5.7 million on his campaign. Romney's campaign said he spent about $11.6 million during the period.
Staff writer Peter Baker in Des Moines and research database editor Derek Willis contributed to this report.