Charlie Baker, Steve Grossman Lead the Gubernatorial Money Race

Based on the past three months.

For the three-month period of September through November, Republican Charlie Baker and Democrat Steve Grossman are leading the way in fundraising for the 2014 Massachusetts race for governor. Here are the numbers, based on their filings with the state:

Charlie Baker: $579,634

Steve Grossman: $455,009

Juliette Kayyem: $257,021

Martha Coakley: $165,150

Don Berwick: $153,037

Joe Avellone: $99,648 (includes $50,000 from himself)

I’m using the last three months for comparison because Baker announced and began raising in early September, and Coakley did so in mid-September. Grossman, who has been raising like a madman for this race for much longer, has amassed a much bigger stockpile;  here are the current cash-on-hand balances at the end of November:

Grossman: $847,182

Coakley: $285,272

Baker: $236,488

Kayyem: $222,717

Berwick: $155,521

Avellone: $88,368

Grossman’s recent numbers are particularly impressive because he had already been aggressively raising—he presumably tapped out the low-hanging fruit of obvious donors earlier this year, but is still able to find more givers.

You might think it’s awfully early to read much into these numbers, but there are a couple of good reasons to pay attention.

For one thing, the ridiculous Massachusetts campaign finance rules, which limit individual contributions to $500 per candidate per calendar year, make it essential to rake in donors before year’s end, so that you can get them in two different calendar years. That’s why Baker and his newly minted running-mate Karyn Polito will be trying to do boffo business this month. It also has some people noting that Grossman will have a lot more 2013 donors than Coakley to reach out to in the new year for relatively easy asks.

Another important point is that the Democratic caucuses take place in February and early March. These are key for Kayyem, Berwick, and Avellone—they need to get a good amount of their supporters chosen as delegates to the state convention to have a realistic chance at getting the necessary 15 percent vote there to qualify for the primary ballot.

For those three candidates, those caucuses are effectively the entire focus of their campaigns, so they need to spend whatever they can get their hands on in their efforts to persuade party activists and get them to the caucuses. If they do poorly at the caucuses, it won’t matter whether they have any money because their campaigns will effectively be over. If they do well—demonstrating real viability—that will prompt people to give them money.

That’s why you see Kayyem, for instance, already spending pretty aggressively—more than $100,000 in November, including $18,000 on polling, quite a bit on data services and website development, and at least nine people on the payroll.

Baker is also spending pretty heavily, but that’s because he’s taking the long view of starting a big campaign. He’s got at least 10 people on payroll, by my count.