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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Obama's Money and the Enthusiasm Gap


The president's fund-raising troubles are evidence of disappointed Democrats.

Last July, President Obama's campaign announced that it had raised an average of $29 million in each of the previous three months for itself and the Democratic National Committee (DNC). I was only mildly impressed. After all, that was well below the $50 million a month needed to reach the campaign's goal of a $1 billion war chest for the 2012 race.

Seven months later, I'm even less impressed. Through January, the president has raised an average of $24 million a month for his campaign and the DNC. Next week, the Obama campaign will release its February numbers, but the president is on track to be hundreds of millions of dollars shy of his original goal.

It's not for lack of trying. Mr. Obama has already attended 103 fund-raisers, roughly one every three days since he kicked off his campaign last April (twice his predecessor's pace).

The president faces other fund-raising challenges. For one, there are only so many times any candidate can go to New York or Hollywood or San Francisco for a $1 million fund-raiser. Team Obama is running through its easy money venues quickly.

For another, many of Mr. Obama's 2008 donors are reluctant to give again. The Obama campaign itself reported that fewer than 7% of 2008 donors renewed their support in the first quarter of his re-election campaign. That's about one-quarter to one-third of a typical renewal rate: In the first quarter of the Bush re-election campaign, for example, about 20% of the donors renewed their support.

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.

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