The biggest surprises of the first quarter fundraising numbers were Barack Obama's and Mitt Romney's stunning successes.
Rudy's numbers are also impressive given that Beltway media have been selling "too liberal" for the GOP for most of the past year, though $17 million are saying "Not so."
Hillary did what she had to do (barely) but John McCain's anemic start left the same Manhattan-D.C. media elite scratching their collective head: He's the front-runner, right? "Must be the war," they intoned, even though steadfastness on the necessity of victory is McCain's only serious bridge to the conservative base left after his "heir apparent" status melted in Monday's bulletins from the money primary.
As the Beltway's candidates -- Sens. Clinton and McCain -- got their bad news, the Beltway punditocracy struggled to spin a story line. They best that they could come up with was that "money doesn't mean everything, just look at Phil Gramm and John Connolly," a hollow argument when the entire political landscape has been transformed by Web activism and new media.
Sen. McCain was given a pass by many of his big media pals, and his spinners allowed to talk about relaunches and new fundraising schemes. The Clinton Machine was harder pressed to come up with talking points that could muffle the Chicago boom that rolled across the airwaves yesterday. When that "mortal lock" status gets shattered, it is hard to put it back together again.
When the mid-April reports are filed, the details will delight political junkies and analysts for weeks. How many contributors in Iowa and New Hampshire, how many in South Carolina, where did W's past supporters really end up? It is the hot stove league of politics, and the inside baseball of burn rates and paid staffers is an early gift to the talking grifters of Campaign '08.
There is one undeniable theme, though, that bridges the two parties' hunt for dollars and momentum: It is a good thing to have as little to do with the Beltway as possible -- a return to the Reagan theme of '79-'80, and a selling point that definitely is bringing people to Mitt's, Rudy's and Barack's camps. (The first first-name campaign ever?)
Hugh Hewitt is host of the nationally syndicated "Hugh Hewitt" show and author of "A Mormon in the White House? Ten Things Every American Should Know About Mitt Romney." Sign up today and receive Townhall.com delivered each morning to your inbox..
It makes sense. The president's poll numbers aren't in Truman territory, but they are below 40. Speaker Pelosi's and Leader Reid's Congress fares even worse.
A half-dozen years of grating and intense partisan bickering, baked by populist uproars over illegal immigration and an anti-war movement's fury, have left everyone inside the Beltway hated by large numbers of folks outside of it.
The Bigfoot media that gathers round the talking head tables night after night don't do much to earn the admiration of the masses either. The District of Columbia looks like the center of the universe when it comes to dysfunction.
Which leads even serious people aware of the Framer's love of checks and balances and of historian's appreciation of gridlock to think: time for something and somebody completely different.