McCain’s next level

This quarter may make or break Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCain The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation Biden's debate performance renews questions of health At debate, Warren and Buttigieg tap idealism of Obama, FDR MORE’s (R-Ariz.) presidential hopes. After the first quarter, in which he raised $12.5 million (a colossal sum in any cycle but this one), he has to recover quickly if he is to win the Republican nomination. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani collected $15 million and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s (R) campaign hauled in $23 million; they raised money faster and spent it more slowly.

In disclosing his numbers, McCain should perhaps have pointed out that although he is duly grateful to all his donors, he has always known he is no favorite among the big moneyed interests, and his campaign is to some extent based on not being their favorite. It is always politically advisable to make a virtue of necessity.

But spinning a disappointment is one thing and does not change the need for big bucks to run a campaign that will probably be decided in one fell swoop on Feb. 5 next year. You can be a maverick or an establishment candidate, but either way you cannot run a national campaign on fumes; you need liquid cash, and lots of it.

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McCain understands this and is taking steps to recover. As Alexander Bolton reports on The Hill’s front page today, the senator is turning his attention to a new midlevel category of donors, a big class that apparently remains untapped.

It does not include those at the top of the donor pile, who can max out their primary donations with a $2,300 check immediately (and even write another simultaneously for the presidential race). Nor does it encompass those at the other end of the scale, donors who respond to direct mail or online solicitations with checks for small sums of $100 or less.

But in between these extremes, McCain hopes, are many youngish professionals who do not have $2,300 lying around but might cut a check for $500 without wincing. Such people are mostly in their 30s or early 40s and still in the early stages of their life’s capital accumulation.

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneTrump, lawmakers consider app that would conduct background checks: report 'Mike Pounce' trends on Twitter after Trump slip at GOP retreat The Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same MORE (R-S.D.) tapped them successfully in 2004, when he took on and beat then-Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D). So did Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.). These two senators were reaching out to people broadly within (or within sight of) their own demographic. McCain, who is 70 years old, will be reaching across a generation to the young professionals. It is something that an establishment candidate might find difficult to do. But McCain the maverick? That’s perhaps a different story.