There are some important milestones in every statewide campaign. The benchmark polling is the first. Judy Baar Topinka won that one hands down, but wasn't as far ahead, perhaps, as she should have been.
The second is the off-year July fundraising report - the first real opportunity that the candidates have to prove that they are more than just a pile of press releases.
For the most part, none of the Republican gubernatorial hopefuls really exceeded expectations by much last week, except perhaps state Sen. Bill Brady, who raised a half million dollars very quickly even though he came out of nowhere. Brady, desperate to prove he was legit, leaked his accomplishment weeks ago, however, so it was no big deal last week.
* Sen. Steve Rauschenberger also pre-leaked his numbers. Months ago, Rauschenberger insisted he would raise $800,000, but came up just short, pulling in $785,000. He had only $588,000 on hand after expenses, which doesn't go far enough to dispel the worst strike against him during last year's US Senate race - that he couldn't raise enough to compete. He also tried to claim these past few days that he had outraised everyone except Gidwitz. In reality, he finished fourth.
* Topinka did about what was expected, but, like her polling, she didn't blow everyone out of the water. The treasurer raised a little bit less than a million dollars and had $1.4 million available. That was good enough for second place after Ron Gidwitz in both money raised and money in the bank. She did what she had to do to hold onto her title as frontrunner.
* Ron Gidwitz was another one of those early reporters. It's now old news that he raised $3 million and had about $2.7 million in the bank. He spent a hefty chunk on consultants and staff, but he didn't go overboard. His fundraising was impressive, but he'll need a huge pile of money to pull himself up from the one percent or less that polling shows now.
* Jim Oberweis' report was a joke. Yes, he "raised" $782,000, qualifying him for fifth place in the fundraising stakes, but $680,000 of that was a loan from himself. He picked up another $50,000 from a businessman, a couple of Jack Roeser's groups kicked in five grand each, as did Jack Ryan. That's pretty much it.
Oberweis is facing the classic dilemma of the rich candidate - it's difficult if not impossible to convince ordinary people that you really need their money. Oberweis and his campaign - like every campaign Oberweis has run to date - have a long way to go to convince anyone that they know what they're doing.
* What can you say about Congressman Ray LaHood? Nobody really knows if he really, truly is in this race, but he does have a fairly decent pile of cash to fall back on no matter which direction he takes. LaHood raised less than $600,000 in his state account and another $200,000 or so in his federal account, and had almost $1.3 million in the bank, qualifying him for third place in that category.
The most telling detail, however, is the paltry sum of money that LaHood has spent since January. LaHood spent a grand total of just $66,000 on his campaign. That's far less than any other candidate in the race, and raises serious questions about whether he has put together any sort of infrastructure capable of handling the long haul.
* DuPage County State's Attorney Joe Birkett has struggled for months to convince people that he's a viable candidate, claiming his powerful and wealthy DuPage base of support would pull him through.
When it came time to put up or shut up, however, he failed miserably. Birkett raised just $232,000. And he's still $657,500 in debt. He owes former Senate President Pate Philip $85,000, but Pate will probably want that cash back soon to help his newly appointed House member stepson fend off a primary challenge.
Birkett has made some new friends. Rosemont Mayor Don Stephens wants Birkett to run against Lisa Madigan again, after Madigan accepted the mayor's support last time and then double-crossed him on his casino. Stephens chipped in $10,000 and some of Stephens' friends and family members contributed several thousand more.
Birkett had just $163,000 in the bank after spending almost $100,000.
Lisa Madigan, by the way, raised just $157,000, but she had over $900,000 in the bank.
Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter. He can be reached at capitolfax.blogspot.com.