Politics

Obama’s fundraising soars, but not without struggles

Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

At the end of winter, the Democratic National Committee had $6.1 million in the bank and the Republican National Committee had $724,654 in the bank, according to data released by the Federal Election Commission on May 20.

Obama’s campaign officials say they hope to raise $750 million or more for the campaign, in which Obama will have to pull out every stop to win in a tough economy. No president since Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936 has won reelection with unemployment above 9 percent.

To bring in all that money, Obama has begun a record-setting fundraising drive.

For example, he has already attended more than 30 fundraisers, and has two more planned for June 30 in Philadelphia. Last Thursday, he attended three fundraisers in New York. At the first fundraiser, roughly 600 people paid $1,250 a plate. The second fundraiser drew roughly 60 people for $38,500 a plate, and the third fundraiser drew roughly 1,400 people for a price of at least $100 a ticket.

First Lady Michelle Obama is also raising funds for the campaign, and recently headlined at least four fundraisers in California.

In contrast, President George W. Bush had attended only a handful of fundraisers during the same period of his 2004 reelection campaign. In the second-quarter of 2003, he raised $35.1 million, according to Malbin’s institute.

A large percentage of Obama’s donations are expected to come from a smaller pool of wealthy donors, such as the Wall Street wealthy that attended the New York fundraiser.

During the 2008 primary season, 30 percent of Obama’s funds came from donors who gave $200 or less, in one or several donations, said Malbin. During the 2008 general election contest, big donors had a somewhat larger role and the $200-or-less donors contributed 24 percent of the campaign’s funds, he said.

Most of the Obama’s 2012 funds will be allocated for television advertising, but campaign officials plan to spend many millions cultivating state-level volunteer networks. The networks are needed to find and motivate potential supporters, to plan placards, check registration lists, register new voters – especially in the Hispanic community – and then deliver them or their votes to the ballot boxes.

The Chicago-based campaign is already underway, and is recruiting volunteers and helping to register voters.

Obama raised $745 million in 2008, when the economy was in better shape, and enthusiasm among Democratic-leaning voters was far higher. Back then, the campaign benefit from roughly 560 “bundlers” who persuaded friends to donate a collective total of $76.5 million to the 2008 campaign, according to the D.C.-based Center for Responsive Politics.

He raised so much money that he declined to accept federal funding, which would have subjected his campaign to spending limits and stricter reporting requirements.