You can find fault with Barack Obama on a lot of issues, but you can’t argue with his fundraising prowess. The president’s team may have been a bit cocky when they set their 2012 fundraising targets, and they may fall a bit short of those lofty goals. Still, one thing is clear: Whoever wins the GOP nomination will have a significantly smaller bank account than Obama.
There is Republican money sitting on the sidelines, and if the eventual GOP nominee can demonstrate that he or she has the tenacity to go the distance with Obama, they will receive sufficient funds to run a competitive campaign. Unfortunately, being able to just compete from a fundraising perspective will not be enough to defeat the Obama campaign juggernaut next year. The 2012 presidential election is likely to be one of the nastiest and most hard-fought elections in recent memory. If Republicans don’t figure out how to spend their money wisely, the president’s team will get the victory lap, despite the economic and political landscape.
Right now, we envision a tight election that will be decided in a handful of states — a much narrower playing field than 2008. As Obama rakes in the cash and the GOP field works itself out, now is the time for Republican state parties in these battleground states to step forward. If these entities can raise money, register voters and recruit solid candidates up and down the ticket in their respective states, Team Obama may find that they have run out of electoral real estate, regardless of how much cash they have on hand.
In politics, as in football, the best offense is a good defense. And while what we are saying may sound like a common-sense prescription to undercut Obama’s cash advantage on the campaign trail, unfortunately most GOP state parties have historically been slow to prepare.
Nevada is one battleground state that worries us in particular. Over the past seven presidential cycles, Nevada has been trending Democratic. Part of the reason for this has been the state GOP’s consistent failure to fundraise and organize (in 2010, with Harry Reid up for reelection, the Nevada GOP raised less than $200,000). If the state GOP organizations in other battleground states take a similarly passive approach, President Obama is likely to skate by in a tight election. Hopefully we will be proven wrong and state parties in the battleground states will take charge and do their part to unseat Obama in 2012.
Ford O’Connell and Steve Pearson are co-founders of CivicForumPAC and advisors to conservative candidates on Internet outreach, communications and campaign strategy.