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And The Verdict Is…

Fundraising numbers are out for Romney, and Giuliani (plus the also-rans, but who really cares, right?). The only X factor now is McCain. He either did terribly – which he said was the case because a) he started late and b) he is a terrible fundraiser – or he’s playing a masterful game of redirection and will now announce a staggering figure that blows Romney away. For the sake of his campaign, he really needs to hope it’s the latter.

If McCain turns in a number between 16 million and 23 million (more than Rudy, less than Mitt), he’s at least alive for another quarter. He’s had the advantage that this is perceived as a three-way race. Since Rudy’s organization has been less than stellar (technically he hasn’t even announced yet) McCain should be closer to Mitt with Rudy trailing. If he falls somewhere in the middle of the 16-23 range, that’s to be expected.

Coming in behind Rudy would be an indicator of serious trouble with the Arizona Senator’s campaign. If his number is less than 16, he’s going to have a tough time making the case that he’s a credible wishy-washy conservative to Mitt’s real-deal wishy-washiness. The race would likely shift to a two-way race with GOPers picking between the fiscally-conservative-socially-moderate Giuliani and the socially-pandering-fiscally-whatever Romney. A sub-16 number puts McCain on life support and he will have trouble surviving into and through the summer months. Look for staff departures, consultants let go, and a “revamped” operation. If his remarks about poor fundraising performance weren’t a clever effort to hide a huge number, they may be the precursor to a staff shake up.

While unlikely, a number above 23 would give McCain new attention and make folks take a fresh look. It’s not likely, but could happen.

While Tommy Thompson has inexplicably decided to jump into the race, this will be the quarter when the rest of the GOP field will start to drop out. The Brownbacks, Huckabees, and others can’t compete with the operation $20 million can buy. They’d be hard pressed to get to that number between now and January, and it’s difficult to get above 2% in the polls with no staff and no media. In the meantime, Romney and Rudy (and possibly McCain) are likely to put up big numbers again in June.

Look for a thin herd to head into the fall.

Written by Michael Turk