Over at Crooked Timber, Henry Farrell has some interesting RNC gossip. According to his source (caveat emptor), the RNC is about to shift money from the McCain campaign to the endangered Senate seats. In other words, the RNC may be on the verge of conceding the presidential election.
The RNC’s dilemma illustrates why it was wrong for people to equate Obama’s fundraising alone with McCain + RNC fundraising. For instance, in conversations I had a few months ago, some friends said that Obama’s fundraising isn’t going to be much of an advantage after you factor in RNC spending too.
That’s only true, though, if you ignore the opportunity costs of the RNC's spending on McCain. A dollar for him is a dollar not spent in other places. More specifically, if McCain and Obama were raising equal amounts of money, then the RNC would have more flexibility to spend money in congressional races where it’s desperately needed. But because of the individual fundraising disparities, they’ve been allocating a big lump of money to the presidential campaign just to keep McCain even.
If, however, McCain remains several points down, then the RNC’s spending gets a lot harder to justify — particularly when the magic number of 60 is very much in play in the Senate. To make things worse, I read in the WSJ today that an Obama campaign official said its September haul was “obscenely large.” So the RNC is going to have spend even more to stay even in the weeks ahead.
It won’t be a pretty news cycle if they pull out, but it’s better than wasting money.
(One side note — if the RNC does pull back, it will force McCain to pull back into a purely defensive position. For instance, I think the Wisconsin and Minnesota and even Pennsylvania spending would have to be reallocated to a final desperate defense of the Bush states alone. In fact, I think McCain is just burning money in those states now as it is.)