The Week in 2012

HOWARD MEGDAL: Latest sign that Mitt Romney is a paper tiger- his donor base. As Benjy Sarlin elaborates on here, the number of his small donors is dwarfed by those who have already maxed out. And maxed out means no more money coming this cycle.

Of course, for a candidate who can self-finance to such a large degree, the monetary downfall is limited. But the lack of small donors means something else: a sincere lack of passion among the voters who will actually choose the 2012 nominee.

Now, a comparison has been made to Hillary Clinton’s 2007 fundraising. But remember that eventually, Clinton tapped into a passionate base to get small donors. Not enough to compete with the Obama financial juggernaut, but enough to represent the broad-based support she had within the party.

Do we really expect Mitt Romney to do the same thing? I certainly don’t. And when it comes to both collecting the small donors, and organizing generally, Michele Bachmann is not to be dismissed.

I don’t see any reason to see Mitt Romney as the frontrunner. Period.

CHRIS PUMMER: I’d be careful trying to tease hidden meaning out of early fundraising numbers, because extrapolating what could be the case simply doesn’t dwarf what we know.

What we know? Romney has a huge financial advantage. Even if his big-dollar donors are tapped out, we also know he’s got the money to self-finance.

What we don’t know? If Romney’s tapped all of his potential max donors, which might not be the case. Especially given the state of this race, with those contributors waiting until the race has more clarity.

We also don’t know that Bachmann will be able to keep turning to small donors to reach financial parity, or that max donors will flock to her before the nomination is settled.

In this sense, I’m disappointed in Bachmann’s numbers to date. While reaching Romney’s numbers was never likely this early, I think it was fair to expect far better numbers than Tim Pawlenty and his dead-fish-looking campaign hauled in last quarter.

Bachmann will need those small donors to pour more in the coffers, and also snag more big donors. Because even if Romney’s support is maxed out, they’re still big donors. So don’t think all of them would be unwilling to cut a check to an outside group ready to take aim at his top competitor.

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