Election 2008

Republican Fundraising Slips

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Republican donors don't seem to be shelling out as much money as they have in the past at this point in the presidential race. Republicans haven't been able to persuade donors that the Republicans are on the way to the White House given no heir apparent, nor definitive frontrunner.


This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm Steve Inskeep.

President Bush last night hosted the annual fundraising dinner for Republican Congressional candidates.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: We have a goal, and that is to retake the House, retake the Senate, and keep the White House in 2008.

(Soundbite of applause)

INSKEEP: Here is the headline from the event. The party brought in more than $15 million. That's a big number, although it's well below the $27 million that Republicans brought in last year.

Let's get some analysis now from NPR's senior correspondent Juan Williams. Juan, good morning.

JUAN WILLIAMS: Hello, Steve. How are you?

INSKEEP: I'm doing fine, thanks. Okay, $15 million, that's a lot of money, but a lot less than 27.

WILLIAMS: No kidding. So you're down $10 million, and, of course, last year was election year, so it's not exactly comparable. But let's look at '05, and that year they brought in $23 million, so that was about seven-and-a-half million better. And you also have to put it in this context, Steve - last year the Republican National Committee Gala - last month, I should say - the Republican National Committee Gala had about $10.5 million compare to $17 million in 06, and $15 million in 05, the comparable year. So they're down by that measure, too.

And one other indicator, Steve. You have reports that about a 40 percent drop taking place in terms of small donors giving to the party - problems with the party's phone bank operations. Overall, the three national fundraising committees, you know, the Republican National Committee, the Senatorial Committee, the Congressional Committee, they're down about 25 percent from equivalent fundraising in '05.

INSKEEP: Is part of this just a reflection of money following power? In past years, the president had Congress at his back, and now he's got Congress at its heels.

WILLIAMS: Well, that's right. You know, this year, what you got is Republican candidates raising more money as a whole, but what you've got is a president who is a lame duck at the moment. He doesn't have that power, and lots of people know that he's on the way out and doesn't have an heir apparent. And secondly, the Republicans don't have control of those congressional committees, so there's a lot of people who would normally would anteing up to get access don't feel the need to.

INSKEEP: Are there a lot of Republican donors who are just waiting?

WILLIAMS: There are, and they're waiting in terms of this feel, because they don't have any excitement about it. I particularly would point you towards Wall Street. They're - you know, a lot of people there, of course, know one of the leading Republican candidates - that would be Rudy Giuliani, the former Mayor of New York. But, of course, he came to prominence as largely as a prosecutor who was giving Wall Street a hard time.

Overall, though, if you look at - for example, people who are giving money to President Bush in 04, about two-thirds of Bush's top fundraisers have yet to give to any Republican candidate in this feel.

INSKEEP: The top three Republican candidates, it's been much noted, have yet to prove themselves to be perfectly fitted to the Republican electorate - not that they won't, but each seems to have his own obstacles to overcome.

WILLIAMS: That's right. And what you got to do is, you've got to somehow persuade people that you are on the way to the White House. And they don't seem to have that down yet, Steve. As I said, there's no heir apparent. The three top ones, if you look at it right now, the ones who have raised money - Romney, Giuliani, McCain - they're way behind what the Democrats have raised.

They've raised more money than, you know, anybody else at this period in terms a Republican presidential field, but they're far behind what the Democrats have raised, which is an indication, I think, that right now you've had a lot of people sitting on the sidelines waiting to figure out which of these Republican is actually going to make a race of it.

INSKEEP: Very briefly, is the debate over immigration - which divides Republicans - also hurting their fundraising?

WILLIAMS: It is. But, of course, it's a little bit more complex. You've also got to factor in the war. But what we're seeing, especially in terms of that short - you know, small givers, small donors - is that they are complaining about the president's stand on immigration, so it's dividing the base and hurting what the small donations...


WILLIAMS: ...and, of course, I have to guess you got to factor in the war.

INSKEEP: Juan, thanks very much. That's NPR's senior correspondent Juan Williams.

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