Big Bill handicapped already in national election?

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I saw over on Joe Monahan’s site yesterday the suggestion that Gov. Richardson and opponent J.R. Damron voluntarily limit campaign contributions for the gubernatorial race this year. Joe made the following observation:

Big Bill and his GOP opponent, J.R. Damron, could voluntarily agree to limit the size of campaign donations which are completely unrestricted in our fair state. How about a $5,000 limit for both the primary and general. Would that cramp anyone’s style?

The pair could agree to limit their overall spending. Does the Guv really need a $10 million campaign in a state of 2 million? Wouldn’t half that amount get the job done?

Regardless of the substance of the argument (I’m all about campaign finance reform (actual reform, mind you)), to me this seems like a strategic blunder for Richardson. I’d raise as much money as possible, and pocket any unspent cash for the 2008 presidential election any future campaigns.

I mentioned this to Joe, and, via e-mail, we figured out what’s happening. Monahan said Richardson can’t spend money from the state race on a federal campaign. And, for those of you keeping track, that instantly hurts his chances against several other potential ’08 Dem candidates. Again, from Joe:

Consider Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), who has been aggressively hitting the fundraising circuit and positioning himself as an alternative to (Sen. Hillary) Clinton.

After finishing his 2004 re-election with an extra $6.6 million in his Senate account, Bayh has taken in another $3.6 million in the first 15 months of this election cycle and closed out the first quarter of 2006 with $9.8 million in cash on hand — all of which can be legally sent into a presidential campaign account.

While this e-mail conversation was transpiring, I was searching for an article or blog post I read recently describing Sen. Hillary Clinton and her fundraising strategy. Basically, she’s doing what I thought Richardson would do (and what Bayh is doing): work on a national fundraising drive, and pocket the money for 2008. She faces little, if any, competition for her Senate seat this year (same as Big Bill) but she is not limited the way Richardson is, in that she can just keep the cash(free reg required):

While Mrs. Clinton and her advisers insist that her only focus is winning re-election to a second term in the United States Senate in November, Democrats say that her finance team has undertaken a vigorous push to round up leading fund-raisers around the country, an effort that was underscored by a recent dinner in Washington at which former President Bill Clinton made an appearance and laid out his vision to the party’s big money people.

The effort comes as Mrs. Clinton has embarked on a nationwide fund-raising spree herself, enabling her to collect cash while appearing before audiences outside New York. Democrats say her goal is to raise at least $40 million for her Senate race, money that could be used for a national run after this year’s Senate re-election bid, for which she faces minor opposition.

Of course, all this may be academic anyway. Nonetheless, it sheds some light on why so many senators are able to make (unsuccessful) presidential bids — the money they raise can be used on senate and presidential campaigns. Too bad for the Guv.

Update: More Richardson news today from Western Democrat.

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