Has the primary race impoverished the Democrats?

The DNC has fallen far behind the RNC in contributions for 2008, exacerbating a problem that began last year. At the moment, the Republicans have almost six times as much money in the bank as the Democrats, and continue to outraise them on a month-to-month basis. Why does the GOP lap the DNC every month? Everyone’s cash goes to the primary meltdown instead of the general election:

In an election year marked by jaw-dropping Democratic fundraising, one key political player isn’t so flush: The Democratic National Committee.

Despite record hauls by Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton, the DNC has raised less than half the amount taken in by the Republican National Committee.

According to the latest Federal Election Commission reports filed through the end of March, the RNC had $31 million in cash on hand while the DNC had only $5.3 million. The RNC has raised $36.5 million this year while the DNC has raised $17.7 million.

The story was equally grim in 2007, when the RNC raised a total of $83 million to the DNC’s $50 million.
“The general election has started; we should we raising $15 million a month,” said one senior DNC official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The committee is raising less than $6 million each month.

The DNC has a rather extensive list of projects it has to fund. It has to stage the convention in Denver, which is where most of their money has already gone. They have to build the GOTV ground networks, an effort that they have started but are far from completing. An ad has been created that distorts the already-discredited “100 years of war” meme, which the Washington Post and Fact Check have dismissed as lies — but they don’t have the money to roll it out nationwide. They haven’t yet begun to fund the $19.2 million allowed for coordination with the presidential campaign.

The Republicans have fully funded their coordination commitee, and have progressed much farther on all fronts. The only remaining task for the GOP will be an ad campaign, which will have to wait until the Democrats actually select a nominee — and that may wait until August.

Where has the money gone? Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have sucked Democrats dry, and it appears that will continue for the next two months. The massive amounts of donations have left the DNC orphaned from what has been a record cycle for contributions. While the two candidates remain deadlocked, the passion, attention, and money all go to that battle at the expense of all others.

This leads to another question. Barack Obama has all but decided not to opt into the public-financing system he champions, convinced of his ability to raise money in a general election. Will there be any money left to raise? The prodigious amounts being raised now may not be a renewable resource, and the DNC’s woes strongly indicate a that the well could run dry. Obama may discover that the primary effort has exhausted Democrats, and that opting out of public financing might actually put him at a disadvantage. He may have to spend more time fundraising than campaigning, to the detriment of his message in the fall.

Small wonder Howard Dean wants commitments from superdelegates by the second week of June. That leaves him eight weeks to raise enough money for the DNC to overcome months of failure. The aroma of desperation has begun to hover over Denver, and over Dean, and over the Democrats.