Commentary Magazine


Topic: campaign fundraising

Romney Outraises Obama by Wide Margin

For the second month in a row, Mitt Romney outraised President Obama by a wide margin. Obama and the DNC brought in $75 million, the campaign announced on Twitter, while the Romney campaign and the RNC raised $101 million:

The gap is slightly smaller than it was in June, when Romney raised $106 million and Obama brought in $71 million, but it’s the second-straight month that Romney has pulled in nine figures and the third-straight month he has outraised the incumbent president.

The fundraising numbers are split between the candidates’ campaign committees, their respective national party committees and joint fundraising committees that raise money for both entities.

Romney’s campaign said the three combined had $185.9 million in the bank at the end of July; Obama’s team did not announce a cash-on-hand figure.

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For the second month in a row, Mitt Romney outraised President Obama by a wide margin. Obama and the DNC brought in $75 million, the campaign announced on Twitter, while the Romney campaign and the RNC raised $101 million:

The gap is slightly smaller than it was in June, when Romney raised $106 million and Obama brought in $71 million, but it’s the second-straight month that Romney has pulled in nine figures and the third-straight month he has outraised the incumbent president.

The fundraising numbers are split between the candidates’ campaign committees, their respective national party committees and joint fundraising committees that raise money for both entities.

Romney’s campaign said the three combined had $185.9 million in the bank at the end of July; Obama’s team did not announce a cash-on-hand figure.

Romney had a $25 million cash-on-hand advantage over Obama early last month, and it’s undoubtedly grown since then. Obama has also been spending his campaign money at an unprecedented rate, according to the New York Times:

President Obama has spent more campaign cash more quickly than any incumbent in recent history, betting that heavy early investments in personnel, field offices and a high-tech campaign infrastructure will propel him to victory in November.

Since the beginning of last year, Mr. Obama and the Democrats have burned through millions of dollars to find and register voters. They have spent almost $50 million subsidizing Democratic state parties to hire workers, pay for cellphones and update voter lists. They have spent tens of millions of dollars on polling, online advertising and software development to turn Mr. Obama’s fallow volunteers corps into a grass-roots army.

But now Mr. Obama’s big-dollar bet is being tested. With less than a month to go before the national party conventions begin, the president’s once commanding cash advantage has evaporated, leaving Mitt Romney and the Republican National Committee with about $25 million more cash on hand than the Democrats as of the beginning of July.

Obama will have less money for advertising blitzes this fall, but let’s also look at this in perspective. There’s a finite amount of advertising dollars you can spend before you saturate the airwaves, so perhaps the Obama campaign isn’t concerned about lagging in that area. The most critical element for the president is getting his base to turn out and vote, which is why he burned through so much cash investing in on-the-ground infrastructure.

Which is one reason Democrats are probably so concerned about the voter ID law. It doesn’t seem like much to ask a voter to show proof of identity, but it could also require some degree of pre-planning (either to apply for an ID or to bring an ID along) that the very low-interest, apathetic voters just don’t feel like investing. And these are the same voters who get-out-the-vote operations tend to target.

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Does the Early Bird Get the Political Worm?

Given the hundreds of millions that both political parties and their presidential candidates have raised this year, it isn’t likely that either side will run out of cash before November. But the latest reports about how the two sides are utilizing their resources have raised an interesting question about campaign strategy. With President Obama’s campaign spending money like it’s going out of style in the spring and summer, it’s clear that despite the expectation earlier in the year that the formidable machine the Democrats have built would have a considerable financial edge, the opposite may be true. As the New York Times reports, Mitt Romney and the Republicans will likely have more money to spend in the fall campaign than their rivals.

The Democrats have spent the last couple of months going all in on nasty personal attacks on Romney that they hope, combined with spending on voter registration and other campaign infrastructure, will pave the way for an Obama victory. That’s a rational strategy but it leaves them open to some second-guessing. They are gambling that their sliming of Romney will sour the public on the GOP candidate will work. But if their charges don’t stick, they will be left to face a still viable rival in September and October who will be able to outspend them on the ground in battleground states.

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Given the hundreds of millions that both political parties and their presidential candidates have raised this year, it isn’t likely that either side will run out of cash before November. But the latest reports about how the two sides are utilizing their resources have raised an interesting question about campaign strategy. With President Obama’s campaign spending money like it’s going out of style in the spring and summer, it’s clear that despite the expectation earlier in the year that the formidable machine the Democrats have built would have a considerable financial edge, the opposite may be true. As the New York Times reports, Mitt Romney and the Republicans will likely have more money to spend in the fall campaign than their rivals.

The Democrats have spent the last couple of months going all in on nasty personal attacks on Romney that they hope, combined with spending on voter registration and other campaign infrastructure, will pave the way for an Obama victory. That’s a rational strategy but it leaves them open to some second-guessing. They are gambling that their sliming of Romney will sour the public on the GOP candidate will work. But if their charges don’t stick, they will be left to face a still viable rival in September and October who will be able to outspend them on the ground in battleground states.

So far the jury is out on the impact of the Democratic spending spree. The president has to be encouraged by polls showing him holding on to an edge in some swing states but the national polls portray a race that is still deadlocked. Factors that have little to do with the money spent by the campaigns such as the state of the economy or the outcome of the presidential debates will have a greater impact on the outcome than the bottom line of the candidates’ bank accounts. But Obama’s decision to not hold back more of his campaign war chest for the decisive final weeks when he may require some flexibility to respond to a fluid political situation may come back to haunt him.

The Democrats willingness to invest in measures designed to increase their turnout is smart. But it also highlights one of the president’s weaknesses. Unlike in 2008, there is no wave of enthusiasm for his candidacy that will impel unusually large numbers of young or minority voters to vote for him. With the “hope and change” mantra consigned to the history books, the Obama campaign has fallen back on the last resort of all incumbents who can’t run on their records: trashing their opponents. While the Democrats accuse Republicans of trying to suppress voter turnout, it is their own consistently negative approach to the election that is the factor that is turning off the public and making a large turnout unlikely.

In 2008, the president also had a decisive edge in campaign finance that allowed him to swamp John McCain down the homestretch. Due to Romney’s own impressive fundraising that won’t happen this year. And, as it now appears likely, the GOP nominee emerges from the summer without being sunk by the Democrats effort to destroy his reputation he will have a fighting chance to use his money to level the playing field in the final months.

The early bird may sometimes get the political worm. But the problem for the president is that if all of his early spending fails to achieve his goal of hamstringing Romney, he may have set the stage for a Republican comeback.

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Romney’s $100 Million Month

This might explain what President Obama was so worried about during his frantic Air Force One plea for donations last weekend:

The Romney campaign, along with its Romney Victory fund and the Republican National Committee, raised more than $100 million in June, obliterating the campaign’s goal and setting the one-month record for any Republican campaign, according to a GOP official.

Barack Obama raised $150 million as he was surging in September 2008, the record month for any campaign.

This is huge for Romney. It’s a fundraising record for Republicans, and a big leap from the $77 million he raised in May. Obama’s team already appeared to be overextending itself, breaking records for number of fundraisers attended all the way back in May and continuing the frantic pace through June. Still, the president’s fundraising total lagged behind Romney’s last month. The Obama campaign hasn’t released its latest numbers yet, but it’s hard to imagine it could top Romney after pulling in just $60 million in May (which was actually the biggest haul for Obama so far this election). The president has hit a ceiling. How can he possibly pencil in more fundraisers or send out more pleading emails than he already does?

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This might explain what President Obama was so worried about during his frantic Air Force One plea for donations last weekend:

The Romney campaign, along with its Romney Victory fund and the Republican National Committee, raised more than $100 million in June, obliterating the campaign’s goal and setting the one-month record for any Republican campaign, according to a GOP official.

Barack Obama raised $150 million as he was surging in September 2008, the record month for any campaign.

This is huge for Romney. It’s a fundraising record for Republicans, and a big leap from the $77 million he raised in May. Obama’s team already appeared to be overextending itself, breaking records for number of fundraisers attended all the way back in May and continuing the frantic pace through June. Still, the president’s fundraising total lagged behind Romney’s last month. The Obama campaign hasn’t released its latest numbers yet, but it’s hard to imagine it could top Romney after pulling in just $60 million in May (which was actually the biggest haul for Obama so far this election). The president has hit a ceiling. How can he possibly pencil in more fundraisers or send out more pleading emails than he already does?

This news also seems to debunk the notion that Romney’s side lacks enthusiasm; Obama’s the one who appears to be trailing in that department. The Supreme Court health care decision was  a big boost for Romney (he racked up nearly $5 million in the 24 hours after the ruling). Meanwhile, Obama’s tax-the-rich rhetoric could be turning off pro-free market Democrats who supported his campaign in 2008.

But never mind all that. Romney’s $100 million month is just an attempt at “distraction,” according to the Obama campaign:

Ben LaBolt, Obama campaign national press secretary, issued this statement after Politico reported the $100-million month: “Mitt Romney is trying to distract from a week when he took contradictory positions on the freeloader penalty in the Affordable Care Act and we learned more about his offshore finances in Switzerland, Bermuda, and the Cayman Islands.

“Americans are less concerned about how much money he raised to get himself elected and more interested in what he would do after repealing health reform, which he has refused to share, and why he won’t disclose the necessary tax returns that prove whether or not he paid any U.S. taxes on his shell corporation in Bermuda.”

Uh, sure, that’s plausible. Romney needed to divert attention from his tax returns, and the easiest way to do it was to…raise a record-breaking $100 million dollars for his campaign? (Obama, of course, would never stoop to such stunts).

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Frantic Fundraising on Air Force One

In case you couldn’t tell from the dozens of Obama campaign emails you get each week begging for $3 contributions, or donations in lieu of wedding gifts, the president’s reelection team is apparently nervous about its money game. Exhibit B: The Daily Beast obtained a recording of a frantic 18-minute fundraising solicitation made by President Obama during a donor conference call on Air Force One:

The president’s 18-minute pleading—a recording of which was provided to The Daily Beast by an Obama contributor—hardly sounded like a man doing a victory lap after Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling upholding ObamaCare, as the Affordable Care Act has come to be known. Or, for that matter, like a candidate who has been beating his Republican opponent in recent polls of key battleground states.

Rather, Obama sounded like a dog-tired idealist forced to grapple painfully with hard reality. “In 2008 everything was new and exciting about our campaign,” Obama said. “And now I’m the incumbent president. I’ve got gray hair. People have seen disappointment because folks had a vision of change happening immediately. And it turns out change is hard, especially when you’ve got an obstructionist Republican Congress.”

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In case you couldn’t tell from the dozens of Obama campaign emails you get each week begging for $3 contributions, or donations in lieu of wedding gifts, the president’s reelection team is apparently nervous about its money game. Exhibit B: The Daily Beast obtained a recording of a frantic 18-minute fundraising solicitation made by President Obama during a donor conference call on Air Force One:

The president’s 18-minute pleading—a recording of which was provided to The Daily Beast by an Obama contributor—hardly sounded like a man doing a victory lap after Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling upholding ObamaCare, as the Affordable Care Act has come to be known. Or, for that matter, like a candidate who has been beating his Republican opponent in recent polls of key battleground states.

Rather, Obama sounded like a dog-tired idealist forced to grapple painfully with hard reality. “In 2008 everything was new and exciting about our campaign,” Obama said. “And now I’m the incumbent president. I’ve got gray hair. People have seen disappointment because folks had a vision of change happening immediately. And it turns out change is hard, especially when you’ve got an obstructionist Republican Congress.”

Romney has been playing up his cash windfall in the wake of the ObamaCare decision, and the Obama campaign doesn’t want to get crushed in the money competition like it did in May. The candidates will be disclosing their June fundraising numbers soon, and Saturday was the last day for donors to get in under the wire. The Obama campaign claims it raised even more money than Romney off the SCOTUS decision, but won’t disclose the figures, which tells you all you really need to know:

Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said via Twitter on Friday that the former Massachusetts governor had raised the money through 47,000 online donations. “Thanks for everyone’s support for #FullRepeal!” she tweeted, referring to the candidate’s vow to repeal and replace the healthcare law if he is elected president on November 6.

Obama’s campaign said they had also raised a lot of money since the Supreme Court issued its ruling, but officials would not give any figures to back up the assertion.

Obama is under pressure to provide evidence he outraised Romney, which explains the desperate phone call. As the Daily Beast reports, Obama reassured donors he still has a superior ground game, and noted that early money is better than late money — in other words, it’s not a major problem if he’s lagging behind Romney at this stage in the election. This isn’t entirely true, as Obama wasn’t raising remarkable figures, even early on. He’s also been burning through money at a much faster rate than Romney.

Then there’s the legal questions about raising money on Air Force One. The plane must count as federal property, so is fundraising solicitation prohibited on it? President Clinton came under fire in 1997 for making fundraising calls on the Oval Office phone, which seems like a similar situation.

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Court Ruling Will Be Fundraising Boon

ObamaCare has lived to see another day. According to the Supreme Court ruling, the only substantial change is that the individual mandate is now considered a tax, something the Obama White House refused to admit it was.

Three hours after the decision was passed down, the Romney campaign’s spokeswoman announced they surpassed the $1 million mark in organic fundraising, mostly from small donors who, after hearing the Supreme Court’s ruling, made their way to the Romney website and clicked “Donate.” The average donation to the Romney campaign was for a little more than $115. As of yet, neither the Republican National Committee (RNC) nor the Romney campaign have sent a fundraising email based on the Supreme Court ruling. If these organic fundraising numbers are any indication, the Supreme Court’s decision on ObamaCare could be the biggest moneymaker for Republicans this election cycle.

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ObamaCare has lived to see another day. According to the Supreme Court ruling, the only substantial change is that the individual mandate is now considered a tax, something the Obama White House refused to admit it was.

Three hours after the decision was passed down, the Romney campaign’s spokeswoman announced they surpassed the $1 million mark in organic fundraising, mostly from small donors who, after hearing the Supreme Court’s ruling, made their way to the Romney website and clicked “Donate.” The average donation to the Romney campaign was for a little more than $115. As of yet, neither the Republican National Committee (RNC) nor the Romney campaign have sent a fundraising email based on the Supreme Court ruling. If these organic fundraising numbers are any indication, the Supreme Court’s decision on ObamaCare could be the biggest moneymaker for Republicans this election cycle.

During the ObamaCare debate in Congress in 2009, conservative groups saw a major uptick in donations. At the time, the Michael Steele led-RNC was dealing with high levels of donor mistrust after multiple stories about RNC wasteful spending and poor decision-making; thus, most conservatives chose to donate to organizations and campaigns directly. In 2009, the Heritage Foundation saw a 45 percent increase in donations and the American Enterprise Institute saw a 58 percent increase. Scott Brown ran as the 41st vote against ObamaCare and saw historic fundraising numbers for his election, raising over $1 million during a one-day moneybomb. These were incredibly strong fundraising numbers for an off-cycle year and were indicative of the high levels of donor discontent with the ObamaCare bill.

Every time it is polled, ObamaCare becomes more and more unpopular with the American people. As any good fundraiser knows, it’s easier to solicit donations from the discontented. While the Supreme Court decision may not be what conservatives were hoping for, the fundraising departments of conservative organizations and candidates are now in overdrive as Americans will now register their disappointment and frustration with their wallets.

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Mandel Rising on His Merits, Not Just Cash

For those who assume the post-Citizens United world of campaign spending means elections can be bought, the Ohio Senate race is a classic example of a bad candidate being kept afloat by cash. That’s the conceit of a Politico feature today about Josh Mandel, the Ohio Republican who is confounding his critics by staying within striking range of Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown. According to the piece, Mandel ought to have been run out of the race due to a string of bad headlines. However, he has not only saved his candidacy but actually has a shot at winning  due, as Politico tells it, to the infusion of out-of-state contributions and ad buys by super PACs that have duped the state’s voters into considering voting for him. But while there is no question that the efforts of the pro-GOP Crossroads America PAC and others like it have helped Mandel, Politico is exaggerating both the impact of money and Mandel’s supposed weakness.

As Politico notes, even Mandel has acknowledged that the support from national conservatives groups is a shot in the arm to his candidacy. Money can buy visibility and get a candidate’s message out to the public, especially when a politician has been pigeonholed as not ready for prime time–a problem the youthful Mandel has encountered. But campaign contributions and television ads can’t buy credibility. All the money in the world couldn’t have won a Christine O’Donnell a Senate seat or put Newt Gingrich in the White House. Though Mandel has had his share of negative stories during his short tenure as Ohio State Treasurer (he was first elected in 2010), the baby-faced Iraq War veteran has demonstrated the sort of intelligence and character that would give any politician a chance, especially against a liberal like Brown in a moderate/conservative state.

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For those who assume the post-Citizens United world of campaign spending means elections can be bought, the Ohio Senate race is a classic example of a bad candidate being kept afloat by cash. That’s the conceit of a Politico feature today about Josh Mandel, the Ohio Republican who is confounding his critics by staying within striking range of Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown. According to the piece, Mandel ought to have been run out of the race due to a string of bad headlines. However, he has not only saved his candidacy but actually has a shot at winning  due, as Politico tells it, to the infusion of out-of-state contributions and ad buys by super PACs that have duped the state’s voters into considering voting for him. But while there is no question that the efforts of the pro-GOP Crossroads America PAC and others like it have helped Mandel, Politico is exaggerating both the impact of money and Mandel’s supposed weakness.

As Politico notes, even Mandel has acknowledged that the support from national conservatives groups is a shot in the arm to his candidacy. Money can buy visibility and get a candidate’s message out to the public, especially when a politician has been pigeonholed as not ready for prime time–a problem the youthful Mandel has encountered. But campaign contributions and television ads can’t buy credibility. All the money in the world couldn’t have won a Christine O’Donnell a Senate seat or put Newt Gingrich in the White House. Though Mandel has had his share of negative stories during his short tenure as Ohio State Treasurer (he was first elected in 2010), the baby-faced Iraq War veteran has demonstrated the sort of intelligence and character that would give any politician a chance, especially against a liberal like Brown in a moderate/conservative state.

It could have been argued that Mandel was too young and inexperienced to jump so quickly into the Senate race, especially as he had only come from out of nowhere to win state office for the first time less than two years ago. Politico assumes the missteps he has made in office would have sunk a candidate prior to Citizens United. But it should be understood that none of the string of damaging stories rise to the level of a scandal or the sort of egregious error that would normally end a career or a candidacy. However, the fact that he has risen above them, albeit with the help of a well-funded campaign, also shows he has enough on the ball and has made enough of a connection with the voters to allow them to either forgive or overlook them.

Just as important is that the “carpet bombing” of Brown by the super PACs wouldn’t be having an effect on the race if Mandel was really regarded by the public as a fool or if Brown was not the one many in the state consider out of touch with their opinions. Moreover, because Democratic PACs have been spending heavily on ads trashing Mandel, it’s not as if there isn’t a competing narrative available to the public. If Mandel is holding his own in the race — the last poll taken at the end of May by Rasmussen shows Brown leading by only five points — it is because he has convinced a critical mass of voters that he is credible.

Brown must still be considered the clear favorite in Ohio and can count on favorable coverage from mainstream media around the state. Though Mandel has shown enough promise to merit the investment from Republicans around the country, he must overcome being labeled as an upstart who has gotten ahead of himself. But Mandel is a bright young political talent who has already exceeded the expectations of his party and the media more than once. If this race stays close heading into the fall it will be because the voters like what they see in him, not because of the super PAC support.

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Obama’s Tone-Deaf Fundraiser

After Obama’s attempt to reassure the public about the economic recovery fell flat Thursday, he jetted off to a celebrity fundraiser in Manhattan hosted by Anna Wintour and Sarah Jessica Parker — and the contrast could not have been more tone-deaf. As AP reports, Obama seemed to temporarily abandon his middle class warrior routine, telling the $40,000-a-plate dinner guests that they were the “ultimate arbiter” of the country’s future:

Speaking in a dimly lighted, art-filled room, Obama told supporters they would play a critical role in an election that would determine a vision for the nation’s future.

“You’re the tie-breaker,” he said. “You’re the ultimate arbiter of which direction this country goes.”

Among the celebrities on hand to hear Obama’s remarks were Oscar winner Meryl Streep, fashion designer Michael Kors and Vogue editor Anna Wintour, who moderated a private question-and-answer session between the president and the guests. Broderick, who was starring in a Broadway musical, was absent.

As a gesture of egalitarianism, there was one non-paying, no-name guest who had won a $3 Obama campaign raffle and was able to attend the fundraiser as a “prize” (how benevolent of the campaign).

The celebrity hostesses also reportedly promoted the Obama campaign’s Runway to Win line, a collection of t-shirts and tote bags “designed” by celebrities and fashion designers and sold on Obama’s campaign site. The products are as awful as you can imagine. Would Anna Wintour ever let her skin touch this monstrosity designed by Beyonce? Or this mess (allegedly) designed by Prabal Gurung? Unlikely. But for $45-and-up, brand-obsessed Obama fans can look like they just bought a t-shirt sewn by a Chinese child laborer from the back of an unlicensed D.C. souvenir truck.

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After Obama’s attempt to reassure the public about the economic recovery fell flat Thursday, he jetted off to a celebrity fundraiser in Manhattan hosted by Anna Wintour and Sarah Jessica Parker — and the contrast could not have been more tone-deaf. As AP reports, Obama seemed to temporarily abandon his middle class warrior routine, telling the $40,000-a-plate dinner guests that they were the “ultimate arbiter” of the country’s future:

Speaking in a dimly lighted, art-filled room, Obama told supporters they would play a critical role in an election that would determine a vision for the nation’s future.

“You’re the tie-breaker,” he said. “You’re the ultimate arbiter of which direction this country goes.”

Among the celebrities on hand to hear Obama’s remarks were Oscar winner Meryl Streep, fashion designer Michael Kors and Vogue editor Anna Wintour, who moderated a private question-and-answer session between the president and the guests. Broderick, who was starring in a Broadway musical, was absent.

As a gesture of egalitarianism, there was one non-paying, no-name guest who had won a $3 Obama campaign raffle and was able to attend the fundraiser as a “prize” (how benevolent of the campaign).

The celebrity hostesses also reportedly promoted the Obama campaign’s Runway to Win line, a collection of t-shirts and tote bags “designed” by celebrities and fashion designers and sold on Obama’s campaign site. The products are as awful as you can imagine. Would Anna Wintour ever let her skin touch this monstrosity designed by Beyonce? Or this mess (allegedly) designed by Prabal Gurung? Unlikely. But for $45-and-up, brand-obsessed Obama fans can look like they just bought a t-shirt sewn by a Chinese child laborer from the back of an unlicensed D.C. souvenir truck.

It’s hard to be too harsh on Obama about the dinner. He’s a politician, and they all have to fundraise. But this particular dinner was so ostentatious — from the guest list, to the ticket price, to the advertising campaign — that it likely grated on the public’s nerves in a way that typical fundraisers don’t. Obama’s own star power has faded significantly since 2008, and it made the dinner party seem sadder and tackier than it would have four years ago — like a middle-aged person trying just a little too hard to hold onto his youth.

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Romney Outraised Obama in May

The day started out with what initially seemed like good news for the Obama campaign. It had beat its April fundraising haul, a mediocre $43 million, by bringing in $60 million in May:

President Barack Obama and his Democratic allies together hauled in more than $60 million for his re-election campaign in May, a large jump as he struggles to maintain a fundraising edge against Republican challenger Mitt Romney. …

It was also a dose of good news for Obama after a Republican victory in the closely watched Wisconsin governor recall election raised warning flags over Democratic fundraising and campaign organizing that could pose problems for the president in the November 6 general election.

After a string of flops for Obama — the failed Bain attacks, the dismal jobs numbers, and the Wisconsin loss — this finally seemed like a chance for some positive publicity. At least until the Romney campaign blasted out this email on its own May fundraising numbers:

Today, Romney for President, Romney Victory, and the Republican National Committee announced fundraising totals of over $76.8 million in May. The campaign and RNC have $107 million cash on hand.

Announcing the numbers, Romney Victory National Finance Chairman Spencer Zwick said, “We are encouraged by the financial support from a broad range of voters. To them, whether they are Republican, Democrat, Independent, a first time political donor, or a former Obama donor, this is not just a campaign; it’s an opportunity for the country. It is clear that people aren’t willing to buy into ‘hope & change’ again. Voters are making an investment because they believe that it will benefit the country.”

The biggest surprise is that Romney beat Obama’s May fundraising numbers by $17 million — and nearly doubled his $40 million April total.

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The day started out with what initially seemed like good news for the Obama campaign. It had beat its April fundraising haul, a mediocre $43 million, by bringing in $60 million in May:

President Barack Obama and his Democratic allies together hauled in more than $60 million for his re-election campaign in May, a large jump as he struggles to maintain a fundraising edge against Republican challenger Mitt Romney. …

It was also a dose of good news for Obama after a Republican victory in the closely watched Wisconsin governor recall election raised warning flags over Democratic fundraising and campaign organizing that could pose problems for the president in the November 6 general election.

After a string of flops for Obama — the failed Bain attacks, the dismal jobs numbers, and the Wisconsin loss — this finally seemed like a chance for some positive publicity. At least until the Romney campaign blasted out this email on its own May fundraising numbers:

Today, Romney for President, Romney Victory, and the Republican National Committee announced fundraising totals of over $76.8 million in May. The campaign and RNC have $107 million cash on hand.

Announcing the numbers, Romney Victory National Finance Chairman Spencer Zwick said, “We are encouraged by the financial support from a broad range of voters. To them, whether they are Republican, Democrat, Independent, a first time political donor, or a former Obama donor, this is not just a campaign; it’s an opportunity for the country. It is clear that people aren’t willing to buy into ‘hope & change’ again. Voters are making an investment because they believe that it will benefit the country.”

The biggest surprise is that Romney beat Obama’s May fundraising numbers by $17 million — and nearly doubled his $40 million April total.

That $107 million cash on hand is big news, too. The Obama and the DNC haven’t released their cash-on-hand numbers yet, but at the end of April it was $144 million, and their spending has been high lately. Romney seems to be quickly closing the gap.

Romney’s campaign has also released these details about his fundraising haul:

FAST FACTS About Romney For President, Romney Victory, and RNC Fundraising:

·         Over $76.8 Million Raised In May

·         93% Of All Donations Received In May Were $250 Or Less

·         $12 Million Raised By Donations Under $250 In May

·         297,442 Donations Received Under $250 In May

·         $107 Million Cash On Hand

·         Contributions Received From All 50 States And Washington, D.C.

The Obama campaign, which likes to tout its large number of small-money donors, reported that 98 percent of its donations were $250 or less. That’s still a higher percentage than Romney, but not by much. Democrats may be grumbling about political spending by super PACs and outside groups this week, but it looks like they already have serious competition from Romney and the RNC in terms of campaign fundraising as well.

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Obama Campaign’s Fundraising Troubles

April was not a good fundraising month for the Obama campaign or the pro-Obama super PAC. BuzzFeed reports that many of the campaign’s big-dollar donors have already maxed out their contributions, and new donors aren’t lined up to replace them:

Donations to President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign declined sharply in April, as many big-dollar contributors hit the legal maximum, a BuzzFeed analysis of Federal Election Commission data shows. …

Most of Obama’s drop is attributable to a decline in contributions of more than $500, which fell by more than $9 million. Many of Obama’s top donors have already hit the legal $2500 maximum to the campaign, which — along with an apparent failure to recruit a new cadre of wealthy supporters — may account for the decline.

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April was not a good fundraising month for the Obama campaign or the pro-Obama super PAC. BuzzFeed reports that many of the campaign’s big-dollar donors have already maxed out their contributions, and new donors aren’t lined up to replace them:

Donations to President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign declined sharply in April, as many big-dollar contributors hit the legal maximum, a BuzzFeed analysis of Federal Election Commission data shows. …

Most of Obama’s drop is attributable to a decline in contributions of more than $500, which fell by more than $9 million. Many of Obama’s top donors have already hit the legal $2500 maximum to the campaign, which — along with an apparent failure to recruit a new cadre of wealthy supporters — may account for the decline.

The bigger issue is that the donor pool isn’t being replenished. Obama has attended a record number of fundraisers, so it’s hard to chalk this up to a lack of outreach. More likely, as Andrew Malcolm writes, is that donors (and some bundlers) simply aren’t as enthusiastic as they were in 2008. Collecting the money takes a lot more time and effort:

But the decline appeared to confirm rumors and anecdotal evidence that Obama’s large-sum donors were less enthusiastic this time around and holding back the checks or reducing their size. One California Democrat said bundlers, who simply stacked the free-flowing checks in 2008, were now having to convince many to give.

And it’s not just the president’s campaign that had a down month in April. The pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA had its worst fundraising month as well, only collecting nine donations of $10,000 or more, according to Politico. Another bad sign: several of these donations were from labor unions, which already play a similar role to super PACs and likely would have already used that money for their own Obama reelection efforts anyway.

The fact that big-money donors are maxing out their Obama campaign contributions wouldn’t matter as much if they were subsequently pouring their money into the super PAC. So far, it doesn’t look like they are. Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage might help open some wallets in Hollywood and elsewhere. But his attacks on Romney’s career at Bain Capital could also present a problem for him with Wall Street donors. These are the people who would normally be prime targets for recruitment by Priorities USA, but it’s very possible that they don’t want their money funding anti-Bain attack ads.

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Troubling Signs for Obama’s Fundraising

Don’t let the record number of fundraisers President Obama has been attending fool you. The Washington Post reports that Obama is having a difficult time pulling in large donors, a sign that the president may have some serious fundraising problems down the road:

But Obama lags behind Republican front-runner Mitt Romney in finding donors willing to give $2,000 or more — a surprising development for a sitting president, and one that could signal more worrisome financial problems heading into the general election. At this point in the last election cycle, Obama had received such large donations from more than 23,000 supporters, more than double the 11,000 who have given him that much this time. President George W. Bush had more than four times that number of big donations at this point in his reelection.

This would explain why Obama has been frantically jumping from fundraiser to fundraiser, with little to show for it.

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Don’t let the record number of fundraisers President Obama has been attending fool you. The Washington Post reports that Obama is having a difficult time pulling in large donors, a sign that the president may have some serious fundraising problems down the road:

But Obama lags behind Republican front-runner Mitt Romney in finding donors willing to give $2,000 or more — a surprising development for a sitting president, and one that could signal more worrisome financial problems heading into the general election. At this point in the last election cycle, Obama had received such large donations from more than 23,000 supporters, more than double the 11,000 who have given him that much this time. President George W. Bush had more than four times that number of big donations at this point in his reelection.

This would explain why Obama has been frantically jumping from fundraiser to fundraiser, with little to show for it.

Obama and the DNC raised $45 million in February, his campaign announced today. It’s a step up from the $29 million he raised in January, but still falls short of the $50 million-per-month he needs to amass the billion-dollar war chest Democrats initially indicated he was aiming for last spring:

Obama’s totals for February fell short of the $56 million he raised in February 2008, when he was seeking the Democratic nomination against now Secratary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Republicans said it was a sign of tepid support.

Kirsten Kukowski, a Republican National Committee spokeswoman, said Obama was “having a hard time convincing voters he deserves another term” following three years of “record debt, high unemployment and soaring gas prices and health care costs.”

Obama has boosted fundraising efforts in recent weeks, holding events last month in Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. Last week, Obama raised money in Chicago and Atlanta.

And it’s not just the large donors Obama is having a hard time with. While his campaign reports an impressive number of small-dollar donations, Karl Rove notes that Obama’s fundraising emails typically ask for $3 contributions, and often frame the appeals as “lotteries.”

There are other troubling signs. Team Obama’s email appeals don’t ask for $10, $15, $25 or $50 donations as they did in 2008, but generally for $3. Nor are the appeals mostly about issues; many are lotteries. Give three bucks and your name will be put in a drawing for a private dinner with the president and first lady.

This is clever marketing, but it suggests the campaign has found that only a low price point with a big benefit can overcome donor resistance among people who contributed via mail or the Internet in 2008. It also points to higher-than-expected solicitation costs and lower-than-expected fund-raising returns.

It’s a smart public relations tactic to give the impression that Obama isn’t losing the small-money; grassroots donors he claimed fueled his campaign in 2008. But is it cost-effective? Even in 2008, the plurality of his donations came from people who gave $1,000 or more. No matter how many $3 contributions Obama pulls it, it probably won’t be enough to make up for the lack of money from major donors. Which tells you why the Obama campaign has finally come around to embracing the Super PACs it’s derided and demonized for years – it literally has no other choice.

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