In a sign that the Republican National Committee is more than ready to put its former controversial Chair Michael Steele behind it, the central coordinating body for the Grand Old Party reportedly raised $5.7 million in January, far surpassing goals it set for that month. It also marks the first fundraising haul of the brand new Chairman Reince Priebus.
Many GOP insiders, and even Preibus himself, expressed a mix of surprise and relief at the latest fundraising numbers. Yet, many observers indicated that Priebus would be well received upon Steele’s ouster, likening what became at some points a contentious Chairman’s race in early January to a “intraparty coup d’etat” inspired by establishment Republicans. It’s the most obvious signal to date that rank-and-file party activists, their bundlers and committed donors were none too thrilled with Steele’s tenure.
“We owe a lot of our success to major donors who helped us reach 180 percent of our monthly major donor goal, and we were able to accomplish that in the last two weeks of January,” said Priebus in a statement. “I am thankful for the outpouring of support I’ve seen over the past month, from both long-time and first-time donors, but we have a lot of work to do.”
That “lot of work to do” is the $21.4 million in red ink the RNC still owes – with just a little over $2.1 million on hand as we approach the end of February. $15 million of that debt is in loans and the other $7 million is owed to vendors waiting patiently as the RNC shakes itself out. Still, the figures for January are an impressive haul for the RNC – $1.9 million the first two weeks of January and another $3.5 million the final two weeks – and Priebus is earning a reputation as a quiet manager steadying the ship. He’s not as open about giving interviews, preferring a behind-the-scenes role as he tends to the grueling routine of bringing the RNC’s fundraising operation back to life.
But, with all the talk about the RNC’s money troubles, few are paying attention to the Democratic National Committee. The red on the other side of the aisle is almost as deep, with a total debt of $17 million. The DNC, however, did better than the RNC in January by raising $7.2 million and it has over $9 million on hand, putting it in a better position financially than the RNC. Still, the DNC also reported that $15 million of that red ink is in the form of loans from heavy financing during a lackluster 2010 campaign season.
The early 2011 fundraising numbers offer a solid glimpse into the financial condition of the parties leading into the 2012 election cycle. Observers are wondering just how each party looks heading into the new season as the cycle is gearing up early. And there are early concerns that the Democratic national fundraising machine could find itself in a very tough spot as present budget battles on and off Capitol Hill threaten the very existence of public sector employee labor unions, a front-line grassroots apparatus that has traditionally helped Democrats. But, for the moment, most eyes will be on the RNC in the wake of its executive troubles and as it prepares for a very crowded Presidential candidate field.