Obama’s cash haul trail­ing pace of ’08

In 2004, Bush had raised more

The Washington Times Daily - - Front Page - BY SU­SAN CRAB­TREE

With the pres­i­dent’s re-elec­tion fundrais­ing drive thus far com­ing up short of his record-break­ing 2008 pace, Team Obama — with the pres­i­dent and first lady Michelle Obama in the lead — is push­ing hard to pump up the money fig­ures ahead of Satur­day’s fi­nan­cial-re­port­ing dead­line.

By some mea­sures, Mr. Obama’s re­elec­tion drive, which at one point was pro­jected as per­haps the first $1 bil­lion cam­paign in U.S. his­tory, has col­lected tens of mil­lions of dol­lars less than Pres­i­dent Bush’s cam­paign had at the same point in 2004, ac­cord­ing to Fed­eral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion (FEC) fig­ures.

Democrats say the num­bers are not ex­act ap­ples-to-ap­ples com­par­isons, with to­tal num­bers complicated by the rise of in­de­pen­dent su­per PACS and funds raised for the party or­ga­ni­za­tions.

But the less-than-im­pos­ing num­bers have prompted a flurry of fundrais­ing emails to sup­port­ers to do­nate ahead of the March 31 firstquar­ter dead­line, in­clud­ing sep­a­rate ap­peals from Mr. Obama and first lady Michelle Obama just in the days since the pres­i­dent re­turned from an in­ter­na­tional sum­mit in South Korea on Wed­nes­day.

Mrs. Obama’s pitch, ti­tled “Up Late,” ex­tolled her hus­band’s work ethic and said she needs sup­port­ers “to have his back” this week and do­nate.

Through the end of Fe­bru­ary, the cam­paign had raised a to­tal of $118.79 mil­lion, for a to­tal of $157 mil­lion when com­bined with the $38.25 mil­lion left over from the 2008 race.

At the com­pa­ra­ble point in 2004, Mr. Bush had raised $158.25 mil­lion for his re-elec­tion ef­fort, with barely more than $1 mil­lion of that com­ing from his pre­vi­ous cam­paign, ac­cord­ing to the FEC.

At times, Mr. Obama’s top aides have openly fret­ted about the level of re­sis­tance they are en­coun­ter­ing from some Demo­cratic donors, es­pe­cially in the face of the chal­lenge posed by the pro-gop su­per PACS. The pres­i­dent’s fundrais­ing team has tried to high­light in stark terms what it sees as the con­se­quences of Re­pub­li­can pres­i­den­tial front-run­ner Mitt Rom­ney win­ning the White House.

“We can­not un­der­es­ti­mate some­one like Rom­ney, who has shown he will spend and say any­thing to win,” cam­paign man­ager Jim Messina warned in an email to sup­port­ers last week. The pitch in­cluded a poll show­ing Mr. Obama los­ing to Mr. Rom­ney if the elec­tion were held now.

Ear­lier this month, Mr. Messina took a swipe at Mr. Obama’s sup­port­ers in an email blast at 3 a.m.

“Too many Obama sup­port­ers are fall­ing into a trap,” he wrote. “They’re wait­ing to do­nate un­til we have a clear op­po­nent. There’s too much at stake, and not enough time, to be do­ing that.”

The ex­pec­ta­tions game

While push­ing for more do­na­tions, Mr. Obama’s aides are push­ing back at sug­ges­tions that the cam­paign is strapped for cash or fall­ing well short of ex­pec­ta­tions.

Demo­cratic of­fi­cials ar­gue that com­par­ing the fig­ures for Mr. Bush eight years ago and Mr. Obama to­day isn’t fair be­cause the pres­i­dent has been fu­ri­ously rais­ing money for the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee this year and last as well.

So far this cy­cle, the DNC has raised $157.68 mil­lion and has $37.17 mil­lion in cash on hand and $5.9 mil­lion in out­stand­ing debts, while the Re­pub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee has col­lected $127.66 mil­lion and has $42 mil­lion in cash on hand and $10.9 mil­lion in debts, ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ter for Re­spon­sive Pol­i­tics.

It’s dif­fi­cult to get a clear one-toone com­par­i­son. Mr. Bush also raised money for the RNC in 2003 and 2004. At this same point in the cam­paign, the GOP party com­mit­tee in 2004 had col­lected $55.87 mil­lion in re­ceipts and had $45.53 mil­lion in cash on hand, with the bulk of the nearly $400 mil­lion it even­tu­ally raised com­ing in the sec­ond and third quar­ters of 2004.

An Obama cam­paign spokesman told The Washington Times that the pres­i­dent’s re- elec­tion ef­fort had reached 1 mil­lion donors six months faster than it had in 2008.

“The 1.5 mil­lion sup­port­ers who have al­ready do­nated to this cam­paign know what is at stake, and they know that Pres­i­dent Obama has to con­tinue the fight for mid­dle-class se­cu­rity in this coun­try,” the spokesman said.

Down ‘by any ac­count’

But Repub­li­cans are all too ea­ger to point out the angst-filled emails as proof that some­thing is amiss.

“No mat­ter how you look it, the num­bers don’t lie,” said Sean Spicer, spokesman for the Re­pub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee. “The sup­port for the pres­i­dent’s elec­tion is down by any ac­count, and I think they are hav­ing trou­ble get­ting the coali­tion that pro­pelled them to vic­tory in 2008 back to­gether based on the poli­cies of the last four years.”

Po­ten­tially more wor­ri­some for Team Obama, how­ever, is how fast money is fly­ing out the cam­paign door, the so-called “burn rate.”

Un­like the su­per PACS that have been fill­ing the air­waves in GOP pri­mary states, Mr. Obama’s cam­paign isn’t spend­ing most of its money on TV and ra­dio ads to reach ac­tual vot­ers. The bulk of its out­lays have been for po­lit­i­cal con­sul­tants and his large cam­paign staff as well as tele­mar­ket­ing, di­rect-mail costs and on­line ad­ver­tis­ing, which usu­ally in­cludes a fundrais­ing pitch. In 2011 and so far in 2012, the cam­paign has spent a com­bined $12.25 mil­lion on on­line ad­ver­tis­ing alone.

Writ­ing in the Wall Street Jour­nal this month, Karl Rove, a GOP strate­gist who was a se­nior ad­viser to Mr. Bush, said these fixed costs are par­tic­u­larly trou­ble­some be­cause they can’t be stopped on a dime like other cam­paign costs, such as a tele­vi­sion ad buy or ad­just­ing the size of phone banks.

“These are tougher [ex­penses] to un­wind or de­lay,” Mr. Rove wrote. “Left un­al­tered, they gen­er­ally lead to even more fran­tic ef­forts to both raise money and stop other spend­ing.”

Mr. Rove also pointed to re­ports that the White House in early March told con­gres­sional Democrats not to ex­pect any money for their cam­paigns from the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee and Obama for Amer­ica this year. That money, they said, would be de­voted ex­clu­sively to the pres­i­dent’s re-elec­tion.

Still ahead

Even so, Mr. Obama’s fundrais­ing has far out­paced any of his likely Re­pub­li­can ri­vals, in­clud­ing Mr. Rom­ney. But Democrats re­main deeply con­cerned about the pro-gop su­per PACS, the power of the ads they fund, and the Democrats’ in­abil­ity so far to com­pete with them through in­de­pen­dent groups of their own.

Af­ter blast­ing their for­ma­tion and call­ing them a “threat to democ­racy,” Mr. Obama’s cam­paign has em­braced them, re­cently an­nounc­ing that many of his aides, as well as cur­rent and for­mer mem­bers of his Cab­i­net, would ap­pear at fundrais­ers for Pri­or­i­ties USA Ac­tion, a su­per PAC sup­port­ing him.

But Pri­or­i­ties USA Ac­tion has strug­gled to com­pete with its GOP coun­ter­parts. It re­ported rais­ing just $2 mil­lion in Fe­bru­ary, half of which came from co­me­dian Bill Maher, bring­ing its to­tal raised for the elec­tion so far to nearly $6.5 mil­lion. That pales in com­par­i­son with Re­store Our Fu­ture, the su­per PAC sup­port­ing Mr. Rom­ney, which has spent $37.9 mil­lion against other Repub­li­cans so far in the GOP pri­mary alone.

So far, all su­per PACS have raised a to­tal of $153.82 mil­lion and spent $81.7 mil­lion — mainly to tear down other Repub­li­cans. Team Obama is brac­ing for an on­slaught of neg­a­tive ads from those same su­per PACS once the pri­mary is over and the pres­i­dent be­comes the main tar­get in the gen­eral elec­tion.

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