Sunday, November 20, 2011

Small donors give Obama reason to be optimistic

While it is always more exciting to talk about big picture things like national polls, and the state of the economy, when describing Obama's chances at reelection, it's also important to keep some focus on the boring stuff, i.e., campaign organization. 

One of the things that those in the know like to talk about is paid staff and volunteers in key primary/caucus states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. People like Herman Cain can generate a lot of heat, but unless that heat is accompanied by what I would call campaign infrastructure, it's hard to win. 

And then, once the primaries are over, and the nominees have been identified, it's all about sustaining campaigns in key battleground states with the full complement of resources to win - not to mention hanging on to the states you're supposed to win. 

One of the key pieces of campaign infrastructure is boots on the ground, the people who do the hard work. And one good indicator that large numbers of volunteers or poorly paid staffers might be making themselves ready to put in the hours on a campaign is their willingness to put cash on the barrelhead - their willingness to make campaign contributions. 

Accordingly, the following, in a Washington Post article that ran a couple days ago, brought a smile to my face:

Even with low approval ratings and an uncertain path to reelection, President Obama is exceeding expectations in one area: His campaign is doing far better at attracting grass roots financial support this year than the Republican rivals or his own historic effort in 2008, according to new contribution data.

The sheer scale of small donations, totalling $56 million for Obama and his party, has surprised many Democratic strategists and fundraisers, who feared that a sour economy would make it difficult for Obama to raise money from disenchanted and cash-strapped voters.

A Washington Post analysis shows that nearly half of his campaign contributions, and a quarter of the money he has raised for the Democratic Party, has come from donors giving less than $200. That's much higher than it was in 2008 and far beyond what the best-funded Republicans have managed.

Sure, it's early days in a sense. But this has to be seen as good news by Obama and his team. Donors are simply more committed to their candidates than those who have not made a financial contribution. And it's interesting that the so-called right-wing populism of the Tea Party movement has not been translating into as many small donations for the GOP. Could that be because so much of this "movement" was actually bought and paid for by the likes of the Koch brothers and others -- that there were not that many actual live bodies engaged? Perhaps. It will be interesting to see how many on the right show up to do the door-knocking and the phone work. 

The downside is that Obama has not been as successful with larger donors and, if that doesn't change, it could be a problem. 

For now, I'll take the good news that a significant army of small donor/campaign activists is gearing up to take the fight to the right-wing. 

I'm still feeling good about 2012. 

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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