Super Spendy Tuesday

It's Super Tuesday! Voters in 24 states head to the polls to pick the Republican and Democratic nominees for President but the don't let all this talk of voting distract from what really matters: how much money are these people raising, anyway?

Multi-million dollar monthly hauls are being matched against one another as a yardstick for popular support, and momentum. Sad as the primacy of the money question is in the primary, it's not surprising when you consider that, as the Center for Responsive Politics just discovered, this election cycle has already cost more than any other election prior to 2004. And we haven't even picked the nominees yet.

In 2007 the field of presidential candidates for '08 raised $582.5 million and spent $481.2 million. That exceeds the total fundraising and spending in each election from 1976 through 2000—the last time both parties had competitive fields. In 2000, George W. Bush, Al Gore and the other candidates who ran collected $528.9 million and spent $343.1 million, including public financing. In 2004, Bush, John Kerry and the rest of the field raised $880.5 million and spent $717.9 million. In 2008, the Center predicts, the candidates alone will raise more than $1 billion—the first time a U.S. presidential election will cross the billion-dollar mark.

John McCain, rebounding from his struggles in 2007 and the current favorite for the Republican nomination, will be abandoning the presidential public financing system he opted in to last year so he can pull in the millions he'll need to stay competitive with his Democratic opponent between now and the nominating convention. How exactly he'll opt out is a topic of much discussion (Mark Schmitt has shed a lot of light on this) given that the Federal Election Commission which regulates the system is currently short too many commissioners to issue binding decisions.