A funny thing happened on the way to the conventions — the Republicans caught up to the Democrats for presidential-campaign fundraising, at least for the moment. Although Barack Obama continues to outraise John McCain, he now spends more than he collects. Meanwhile, the DNC has performed catastrophically at fundraising, allowing for a ten-fold gap between themselves and the RNC for post-convention activities:

The likely Democratic nominee Obama continues to vastly out-raise Sen. John McCain, but the presumed Republican nominee is closing the money gap with the significant help of his party, according to new campaign finance reports filed Tuesday.

McCain disclosed he had $21.7 million in the bank at the end of April, compared to … Obama’s $46.5 million. But the Republican National Committee is proving to be a real financial equalizer for the Arizona senator with the notorious disaste for fundraising.

With significant time and help from President George W. Bush, the RNC ended April with $40.6 million in the bank—10 times more than the Democratic National Committee, which had a modest $4.4 million in the bank.

The Democratic Party’s fund-raising also was a fraction of the Republicans’ in April–a mere $4.7 million, compared to $19.8 million for the RNC.

That puts the GOP ahead in the upcoming general election, and the gap may widen. Cash on hand for both Obama and the DNC declined in April, thanks to deficit spending in both organizations. Obama raised $32 million to McCain’s $18 million, but the Republican only spent $6 million of it. Obama spent over $36 million in April, denting his considerable war chest. Obama’s contributors now increasingly come at the expense of the DNC, which has failed miserably in its quest to keep pace with the RNC, and the little money it has on hand will get spent on the convention.

This could push Obama back towards public financing. His donations have tumbled significantly over the last three months. Obama raised $55 million in February, $40 million in March, and now $32 million in April — all significant numbers, but now almost half of his peak. It looks like the Democrats may have tapped themselves out in this primary race, leaving the well dry for the general election. No one has leftover cash for the DNC, and they may not have any for the general election, either. Meanwhile, Obama has run through two-thirds of all that cash in three months, which calls into question the campaign’s ability to manage themselves on a tighter budget.

The GOP has effectively closed the funding gap three months before the convention. Between then and now, expect the Republicans to quietly but effectively continue to boost McCain’s coffers as well as the RNC, which can fund all the GOTV efforts the DNC can’t afford. Under those circumstances, the spending limits that come with public financing may start looking more attractive to Team Obama.