The Campaign Spot

RNC Numbers Not Showing Rush Fallout

Two other bright guys, Jay Cost and Moe Lane, also look at the quarterly fundraising numbers for the party committees.

Jay thinks I’m a bit too cheery about the RNC’s fundraising numbers under Steele so far. Jay is his usual detailed and compelling self, but I’m not sure that his preferred measuring stick, comparing the current numbers to the first quarter of 2005, is the right one considering that today’s economic climate is very different from the one four years ago.

True, donations for 15 of the closest races have not suffered during this recession, but a Wall Street Journal analysis conducted earlier this month concluded that corporate PAC contributions fell by 6 percent during the first two months of this year relative to 2007. In this environment, with massive stimulus and spending bills being passed, I would guess that donors are more inclined to give to the lawmakers themselves than to the national committees — but maybe I’m wrong.

The other point is that Steele had probably the rockiest start of any party chairman in recent memory, most notably his comment on February 28 that Rush Limbaugh’s program can be ”incendiary” and “ugly.” If we expected Steele’s brouhaha with Limbaugh to have any impact on fundraising, we probably would have seen it most clearly reflected in the March fundraising numbers. But donations were up, $1.6 million higher than the previous month.

It’s possible the RNC’s numbers will get worse as the year wears on, but if they do, it will probably reflect other factors, fresher in the minds of potential donors.