McCain and Public Funding

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The Libby commutation took the spotlight off of McCain’s Q2 numbers, which was good for McCain, but it also seems to have drowned out a lot potential talk about the other R’s Q2 numbers, which is bad for McCain, because those other numbers aren’t so good. I mean, really: Romney’s $14m is not that much greater than McCain’s $11.2m, and Giuliani’s take is still shockingly less than the leading Dems. The problem for McCain is, of course, that his take — however respectable in context — translates into such a tiny amount of cash on hand. If he was as rich as Romney, this wouldn’t be a problem either (without his loan to himself, Mitt would have only $6m COH).

As it stands, McCain has to consider public financing in order to continue. I’m told they’re very, very close to making the decision to do so. The Hill has details on what it could mean for his campaign:

More arduous for McCain, however, would be the spending limits that public funds would trigger in key primary states. If the presidential primaries were held this year, McCain could spend only $818,000 in New Hampshire — a limit that includes funds his campaign has already spent in the Granite State.

But beyond the restrictions on spending (some of which can be gotten around — and some of which McCain has himself critiqued before even getting into this position), accepting public financing means reframing his entire run and asking supporters to believe he has a chance, because the odds are long indeed. At this point, one might wonder if McCain is running because he believes he can win or running just to run for as long as he can….though the two aren’t mutually exclusive.

Marc Ambinder has more thoughts:

This isn’t a gamble, because gambling implies a choice. McCain was forced into this situation by contingency. If he recovers, it won’t be because he raises money, it’ll be because the attributes that Republican primary voters want in a nominee align suddenly with his own. McCain is a known commodity; his public image remains, despite everything everyone everywhere may thing, fairly solidly defined and one that some of his opponents secretly envy.

I hesitate to cite history, but I am not aware of an election where public image alone has carried a nomination.