Commentary Magazine


Is The Money Drying Up?

The New York Times suggests that poll numbers and Sarah Palin aren’t the Obama campaign’s only problem:

After months of record-breaking fund-raising, a new sense of urgency in Senator Barack Obama’s fund-raising team is palpable as the full weight of the campaign’s decision to bypass public financing for the general election is suddenly upon it.Pushing a fund-raiser later this month, a finance staff member sent a sharply worded note last week to Illinois members of its national finance committee, calling their recent efforts “extremely anemic.”

It seems that spending has continued unabated while revenues have lagged. The Times notes:

But the campaign is struggling to meet ambitious fund-raising goals it set for the campaign and the party. It collected in June and July far less from Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s donors than originally projected. Moreover, Mr. McCain, unlike Mr. Obama, will have the luxury of concentrating almost entirely on campaigning instead of raising money, as Mr. Obama must do.The Obama campaign does not have to report its August fund-raising totals until next week, so it is difficult to tally what it has in the bank at this point. A spokesman said that August was its best fund-raising month yet and that the campaign’s fund-raising was on track. But the campaign finished July with slightly less cash on hand with the Democratic National Committee compared with Mr. McCain and the R.N.C. The Obama campaign has also been spending heavily, including several million more than the McCain campaign in advertising in August.

But wait, didn’t Obama himself tell us that his mastery of an expensive, employee-intensive operation is proof of his fitness for office? Just last week he was saying:

Well, my understanding is that Governor Palin’s town of Wasilla has, I think, 50 employees. We’ve got 2,500 in this campaign. I think their budget is maybe $12 million a year. You know, we have a budget of about three times that just for the month. So I think that our ability to manage large systems and to execute I think has been made clear over the last couple of years.

Hmm. So it must be fair then to look at his campaign’s budgetary situation — a bloated operation with unrealistic revnue projections  — and conclude this is a fair test of his executive skills, right? At the very least, his most significant financial decision — to break his pledge on public financing — has proven to be problematic and now forces him to devote precious time to scrambling for dollars. I suspect we won’t hear quite as much bragging about his finely tuned campaign in the days and weeks ahead.