Much has been made of Jim Ryun's spending this year. And, it's worth being somewhat critical because it's based on a risky strategy.
But, it's important to look inside the spending. If you look at the amount of money Ryun has raised from contributors who give less than $200 (known as unitemized contributions) it is quite substantial. This is a result of Ryun's spending on direct mail - the majority of Ryun's spending. In fact, it looks like Ryun spent as much on direct mail as he raised. This is what you have to do to build a bigger donor file.
A closer look at the numbers reveals that Ryun raised approximately $413,000 from small donors. If the average small contribution is $50, then Ryun raised this from approximately 8,000 donors.
A direct mail person will tell you that a small donor, on average will donate two more times this coming year. Ryun can probably count on 16,000 more $50 donations, with very little relative costs of fundraising. So, in theory, Jim Ryun will raise $800,000 from these donors in 2008, and it will probably cost him around $150,000 to raise it - a net of $650,000 without having one person capable of giving him more than $200.
By comparison, Nancy Boyda-Pelosi has received $73,742 from small donors, roughly 18% of Ryun's contributions. So, she would net about $117,000 from small donors in 2008, $533,000 less than Ryun, at the current pace.
Lynn Jenkins has received $38,308 from small donors, 9% of Ryun's. On this pace, she would net about $60,000 from small donors, $590,000 less than Ryun.
IF, Ryun capitalizes on this new and improved "house file" of donors without his vendor soaking him, he is well positioned to have a broad fundraising base of donors his opponents cannot compete with. He will have to rely less on big donors and PACs. This is particularly important for Ryun and may actually draw him more help from the national party and outside groups if his fundamentals are strong.
Again, this is the THEORY on which Ryun appears to be fundraising and spending. IF it works as planned in 2008, he will be well positioned to quickly and easily outraise the others in the race.
IF it does not work, he will have essentially spent a year churning mail.
As with anything in politics, it's a big IF.
Dedicated to the proposition that Nancy Boyda is a one termer.