Barack Obama broke another fundraising record in August, adding $11 million to his previous record to haul in $66 million. That tells about a third of the story, though:
Senator Barack Obama raised $66 million in the month of August, making it his best month ever and the best in American political history, an aide said Sunday morning.
Obama is releasing that number after suggestions that his fundraising was failing to meet expectations. It puts him on pace to substantially outspend John McCain in the last two months of the race, in which McCain will be limited to spending the $84 million supplied by the Treasury under public financing rules.
Last week, the New York Times raised questions about the viability of the Obama fundraising machine. They reported that the campaign had started to panic about their decision to break their pledge on public financing and had started using hardball tactics to wring more donations out of their base. This disclosure attempts to put an end to that speculation.
However, it tells only part of the story. While John McCain can only spend $84 million over the next two months after accepting that much from the public-financing system, it doesn’t cost him a dime to get it. The Obama campaign’s burn rate will be critical in determining whether he’s actually raising enough money to keep him ahead of McCain. If it costs him more than $20 million to raise that money, it’s essentially a wash — and the burn rate at Team O has been much higher than 30%. Their cash-on-hand numbers will probably tell a different story, as Obama would have to almost double McCain’s $84 million over the next two months just to stay even.
Also, the DNC’s numbers should prove interesting. The RNC has consistently outraised them, providing more cushion for McCain in building a war chest. If Obama got his new donations at the expense of the DNC, or even if they trail the RNC at the same rate as the rest of the year, Obama’s $66 million August will not keep pace with the overall GOP effort.
The rest of the figures will come out this week, and that will give us a more complete picture of whether Obama made a fiscal error in opting out of public financing.
Update: Byron York quotes the campaign as having $77 million cash on hand after August. That sounds impressive, but they had almost $66 million at the end of July. They had a burn rate of over 80%, which explains why the campaign may have seemed desperate to the New York Times. In order to make this decision work for Obama, they have to do better than $66 million a month if they want to cover the cost of fundraising as well as make up for the deficit between the DNC and the RNC.