The Virtual Presidential Primary of 2007

by on January 30th, 2007

It’s still early in 2007, but political pundits are already starting to focus on the presidential primaries and caucuses of 2008. However, there will be one virtual presidential primary in 2007 and it will be a big one — the “money primary.” Reports released at the end of each quarter of 2007 will slowly but surely reveal the story of who’s winning and losing that all-important “primary.” Some candidates will actually be eliminated during this period because they won’t be able to raise enough money to put on a competitive campaign when the real primaries start in January of 2008.

Some intriguing questions will be answered as the year unfolds. Will Hillary Clinton be the fund-raising juggernaut that everyone seems to think she will be? Will she and John McCain have the largest campaign war chests in their respective parties at the end of 2007? Will they still be the frontrunners by then? Who will emerge as their leading alternatives?

We will also want to see if the 2007 money primary will produce another Howard Dean — someone who, like Dean in 2003, seemingly comes out of nowhere to lead the way in fundraising. Dean pioneered the use of Internet fundraising to stun most of the pundits and leave his competitors in the dust during the last three quarters of 2003. But, as we all remember, even though he set a record for raising over $40 million in 2003, his campaign mismanaged those funds and most of the money was gone before the New Hampshire Primary rolled around in 2004. As a result, Dean’s actual primary campaign was short-lived.

It’ll be interesting to see if two or three candidates in each party can raise large sums of money in 2007. If so, that could make the 2008 primary season “flashproof”, i.e., it could prevent the kind of scenario that has occurred in recent presidential election cycles in which the primary season is over in a flash.

This happens as a result of one candidate doing well in the early contests and (for all intents and purposes) wrapping up the nomination by March because the other candidates quickly see their contributions dry up. Shortly thereafter, they run out of money and either have to exit the race or can no longer remain competitive. Then we end up with the drudgery of an eight-month general election campaign that seems to drag on forever. This scenario would be less likely if multiple candidates in each party built up enough cash reserve in 2007 to sustain a lengthy primary campaign.

So, get ready to follow the money in 2007. It will lead to the candidates who are best positioned to capture their respective party’s presidential nomination in 2008. The excitement is starting to build!

Terry Mitchell