Obama fundraising aims low as third quarter ends

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign is sending out a flurry of fundraising appeals as the financial quarter comes to a close, amid growing evidence that the campaign is falling behind on its ambitious goals.

Some of the new pitches ask donors to send in $3 for a chance to have dinner with Obama. “Because you and I don’t have a lot of chances to have dinner together, I hope you’ll take advantage of the one that’s coming up this fall,” began one email delivered midday on Sept. 30, the final day of the quarter. “So if you’ve been sitting on this, now’s the time to toss your name in the hat,” said the email, which was signed “Barack.”

That’s a 40 percent cut from Sept. 14, when a previous email asked for a $5 donation in exchange for a chance to dine with Obama.

“I know we’ve been sending you a lot of email lately,” said a Sept. 29 message from campaign Finance Director Rufus Gifford. “Our operation is fueled by people inspiring each other to take ownership of this campaign … If you’re able to, will you chip in just $3 today?”

These small-bill requests are routine, because they help sympathizers make the first step to larger donations, they provide campaign managers with information about the names and locations of their enthusiastic supporters and because the small donations lower the average value of donations to the campaign.

Small average-value is important to the campaign because it helps portray the campaign as being funded by working-class and middle-class Americans. (RELATED: Abandon ship? Durbin, Buffett change tone on jobs plan)

“Other campaigns save seats at the table for special-interest PACs and Washington lobbyists — and you can see the effects in the decisions they make and the priorities they set,” said the Sept. 30 email that carried Obama’s signature. “Our campaign rejects all contributions from Washington lobbyists, and we refuse all money from corporate PACs. That means we’re accountable only to the people, not special interests,” said the email.

But a large percentage of the campaigns’s second-quarter income was given by wealthy donors via large checks — of up to $38,500 — and there’s evidence that wealthy donors have backed away from the campaign.

Some of the major Wall Street donors to his 2008 campaign are openly backing, or quietly meeting with, prominent GOP politicians such as former Governor Mitt Romney or New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

Nationally, campaign officials have also sought to lower expectations for the third quarter.

The campaign quietly announced in early September that its quarterly goal was only $55 million.

That’s seems much less than the $86 million announced by the campaign at the end of the second quarter. But that $86 million included $47 million for the campaign, and $38 million for the entwined Democratic National Committee. Campaign officials did not say if the $55 million goal includes DNC money. If not, a $55 million goal would be an 16 percent increase from the previous quarter.

At fundraising events, Obama frequently acknowledges the reduced enthusiasm among Democrats for his campaign. “That spirit, which we captured in 2008, we need that spirit now more than ever,” he said at a Sept. 26 fundraiser in Seattle, Wash.

“So I need you guys to shake off any doldrums … I need you to talk to your friends and your neighbors and your coworkers — you need to tell them, you know what, we’re not finished yet … we believe in, a place where everybody has a fair shot, everybody does their fair share; a generous, big, tolerant America; an optimistic America.”

Election-watchers have speculated the Obama campaign might raise a total of $1 billion, but campaign officials say they have not released any cumulative goal.

The campaign will announce its second-quarter revenue in early October.

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