The $5.1 million raised by former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe in the first quarter for this fall's Virginia gubernatorial election dwarfed the $2.4 million of Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican nominee, during the same time period.
McAuliffe also reported $5 million cash-on-hand compared to Cuccinelli's nearly $3 million warchest. State office holders are barred from raising money while the General Assembly is in session, which it was throughout most of January and February. That gave McAuliffe more time to pad his coffers, while restricting Cuccinelli's ability to match.
The first-quarter haul is a $900,000 improvement for McAuliffe compared to the last time he ran for governor. He raised $4.2 million during the first quarter of 2009, ending up with $8.3 million by the time he lost the three-way Democratic primary.
Cuccinelli's numbers are dramatically better than this point four years ago during his campaign for attorney general. His first quarter report for 2009 showed he raised just $86,021, while spending almost $146,000. Cuccinelli is fond of saying on the stump that he is always out-raised in any given race, yet he is four-for-four at the ballot box for general elections.
The fundraising reports offer a momentary reprieve for the torrent of negative coverage received by both Cuccinelli and McAuliffe this month. McAuliffe's came over several self-inflicted wounds regarding his involvement and departure from car manufacturer GreenTech Automotive; Cuccinelli's dealt with his investments in Star Scientific and friendship with the company CEO at a time when the company has a $700,000 lawsuit against the commonwealth.
Virginia Democrats and newspaper editorial boards alike have called on Cuccinelli to resign from his position as the commonwealth's top attorney. Financially, Cuccinelli would have stood to benefit during the first quarter if he resigned because he could have raised money for the entire quarter.
Meanwhile, Virginia Republicans and Cuccinelli's campaign have attempted to discredit the premise of McAuliffe being a successful businessman, which is supposed to be one of his main qualifications for office.
McAuliffe, who does not hold office, took advantage of Virginia's fundraising rules designed to limit influence-buying during legislative sessions by holding several big out-of-state fundraisers. Ares ranged from his hometown in Syracuse, N.Y., to the home of lawyer John Morgan in Lake Mary, Fla. He also raised money in St. Louis and New York City, among other places.
He benefited both from in-person fundraising pitches by his friend Bill Clinton as well as a $100,000 donation to his campaign written by Clinton himself, a small payback of sorts for the millions of dollars McAuliffe has helped raised for both Bill and Hillary Clinton over decades in Washington.
What remains to be seen is how the size of McAuliffe's current warchest will influence his campaign's decision-making regarding paid media advertising.
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., used his early and consistent fundraising advantage over former Sen. George Allen, R-Va., during last year's Senate race to reserve $2.5 million in fall television time while ad rates were still cheaper than they were later in the year.
Polling shows McAuliffe without Kaine's advantage in with name identification, which may mean McAuliffe will need to soon start airing his own bio ads in order to beat Republicans to the punch when it comes to telling his story. Likewise, an early on-air attack against Cuccinelli while the Republican nominee is at a financial disadvantage may allow the Democrat's campaign to introduce Cuccinelli to voters on their terms first, creating a negative impression of the attorney general, specifically on women's issues.
During the last three gubernatorial races, the candidate that raised the most money during the first quarter went on to win the race. In 1997, that was not the case.
Republican Bob McDonnell ($2.22 million) and Democrats Kaine ($2.63 million) and Mark Warner ($1.38 million) all outraised their eventual general election opponents in 2009, 2005 and 2001 respectively. In the first quarter of 1997, then-Lt. Gov. Don Beyer (D) raised $2.28 million while then-Attorney General Jim Gilmore (R) raised $1.20 million.
McAuliffe this year raised more money than the last three Democratic nominees for governor combined did in each first quarter report. The same goes for the last three Republican nominees.
Cuccinelli's first quarter numbers show he has raised more money than any of the last four Republican nominees individually did during their first quarter reports also but less money than Kaine did in the first quarter of 2005.