Simple math. The feds will give you $84 million in September, after you’re formally nominated, for two months of campaigning. If you can’t raise more than $42 million a month on your own (or not so much more as to justify the time demands of holding relentless fundraising events), you take it. If you can, you don’t. How do those numbers break for Maverick? He pulled in $15.4 million in March, a little more than a third of what Kerry took in the month after he locked up the nomination four years ago. That is to say, it’s not just that he’s doing poorly vis-a-vis Obama — $72 million versus $236 million, if you can believe it — it’s that he’s doing poorly, period. And the worst part? There may well be a cascade effect among Republican congressional candidates as the RNC tries to close the gap for him:

Today, the congressional Democrats’ financial advantages have grown substantially while their Republican counterparts’ situation is increasingly dire.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee reported Sunday having $38 million in the bank compared to the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s $17 million. More striking, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had $44 million in cash as of March 31, the end of the first quarter, while the National Republican Congressional Committee had just $7 million.

With the RNC focused now almost exclusively on protecting the party’s nominee, House and Senate candidates who don’t happen to be competing in presidential battleground states may be on their own.

Conservative third-party groups will help — except that, er, we’re getting killed on that front too and McCain risks being called a hypocrite if he relies on them too heavily given his criticism of them in the past. How’d it come to this? Back to the LAT:

Even with the RNC’s success, there are warning signs. Its fundraising is down from where it was four years ago. In the past, the party relied heavily on small donors.

In 2007, however, the RNC raised $45 million in increments of less than $200, down from $56 million four years earlier, federal election records show…

Also adding to McCain’s problems: Some traditional sources of GOP money are leaning Democratic in this campaign.

Obama has received $6.8 million from the securities and investment industry, compared with McCain’s $3 million, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. Clinton has received $5.7 million in real estate industry donations; McCain, $2.5 million.

Now that this shoe’s dropped, all we’re waiting on is Barry O’s formal announcement that he’s opting out of public financing and the terms are set. Exit quotation from the Times: “Obama has raised more in small donations than McCain has raised in his entire campaign.” Not just small donations, guys — online small donations, which involve virtually no cost to the campaign. A young, energized, Net-savvy base is a nice thing to have.