Sunday, May 06, 2012

Obama v. Romney - small donors v. big donors

By Richard K. Barry

This past week, FiveThirtyEight, at the New York Times, reported an interesting dynamic regarding a key difference in the fundraising efforts of President Obama compared to Mitt Romney.

For some time, we have known that Obama is struggling to bring in a similar numbers of big money donors as he did in 2008, which helped him with his record haul at that time. 
Romney, on the other hand, has the exact opposite problem.
[T]he bulk of his campaign’s war chest has been built big check by big check, while small donations — defined as contributions of less than $200 — have been scarce, according to Federal Election Commission data compiled and analyzed by Derek Willis of The New York Times.

More than half of Obama's fundraising has come in donations of less than $200, while only 13% of Romney's donations have come in amounts that small.
Instead, a majority of the money Mr. Romney has raised arrived $2,500 at a time, the maximum campaign donation allowed for either the primary or the general election (an individual can contribute $2,500 to a candidate’s primary campaign and another $2,500 to the general election campaign).
Sen. Mark Hannah

It doesn't take a genius to figure out how important fundraising is in politics. I never get tired of quoting the comment made by Senator Mark Hannah (R-OH) at the turn of the 20th century. He said, "[t]here are two things you need for success in politics. Money and I can't think of the other." That's about it.

Sure, there will be a lot of third-party money in the 2012 campaign, thanks to the Supreme Court, but campaigns will still have to raise a lot of their own.

Conventional wisdom is that when your strategy is to raise most of your money from fewer, wealthier, donors, you have to find new donors, with deep pockets, to replace the old ones, who have reached their donation limits.

When you get your money from smaller donors, as Obama is doing, you at least have a chance to go back to them with requests for continuing small donations.

It's always takes less effort to go back to the same people who have demonstrated a willingness to give you money, than to find brand new people who are so inclined. To use a military analogy, every single thing you have to do in a campaign that takes even a small amount of extra effort, is effort you cannot apply elsewhere in the battle.

I'm not saying that the relative lack of big donors won't be a problem for Obama, only that his approach conceivably allows for greater flexibility in the long run.

The other issue is that larger numbers of smaller donors indicate a level of commitment and support on the part of your voter base, than may be true of campaigns that rely on fewer, larger, donors. In other words, more discrete donors equal more discrete motivated voters. If nothing else, it's a good sign.

So far, no matter how much money you have, you still only get one vote. Maybe a President Romney would work to chance that. I wouldn't be at all surprised.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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