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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rubio steadily cutting into Crist's money lead



How big a money advantage does Charlie Crist need to beat Marco Rubio for the U.S. Senate nomination? Certainly the numbers released by the Republican campaigns - $7.5-million in the bank for Crist at the start of the year, compared to $2-million for Rubio - seemed plenty daunting for the Miami Republican. But a closer look shows Rubio is not nearly so out-gunned in financial resources.

Donors can give only $2,400 per election, and Crist has relied heavily on big check-writers who gave money both for the primary and the general election. Excluding money that can’t be spent until the general election, Crist actually had about $5-million available for the primary compared to roughly $1.9-million for Rubio, according to a St. Petersburg Times analysis. If he loses the primary, Crist would have to fully refund $2.5-million in general election donations.

That means Crist as of Jan. 31 had more than two and half times more money on hand than Rubio. That’s big (roughly his overall advantage over Jim Davis in the 06 governor’s race), but a not nearly as huge as the five-to-one advantage Crist had over Rubio three months earlier.

Given Rubio’s momentum - polls, tons of national media attention, $800,-000-plus raised in online money bombs - it’s likely Rubio closes the gap still further by the end of this quarter. He also has groups like Club for Growth ready to spend money on his behalf.

It costs roughly $1.2-million for a solid week of statewide TV ads, and Crist’s fundraising prowess is sure to dim considerably after the legislative session.

So you can see the tricky calculus facing the Crist campaign. Should he spend money now to define Rubio and halt his momentum before it’s too late? Or marshal every penny until the final five weeks of the campaign?

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 12:22pm]


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