Show Me the Money

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I’ve been wondering about this for weeks — especially since the May fundraising totals came out, which showed McCain and Obama roughly even for that month. Just how much money has Barack Obama been raising since the end of the primaries? After all, if he’s going to bring in these astronomical sums everyone’s talking about there aren’t that many months left. He’s got to start putting up some big, big monthly totals.

This piece in tomorrow’s Post suggests that the strain of raising money to retire Clinton’s debt and some continuing resistance from Clinton’s donors (to give to Obama’s campaign) has put the Obama machine under some pressure.

We don’t know Obama’s totals. And obviously having difficulties, if that’s what’s happening, has to be understood in the context of the massive totals they’re planning on bringing in.

But one thing that has occurred to me recently is the very different tempo of small donor fundraising, or at least the sense of it I get watching from my vantage point. There are established networks for big dollar giving. It has a bit more of a command and control quality. But small dollar giving seems highly dependent on the intensity of the moment and the spikes of the campaign cycle. During the heat of the Obama-Clinton battle, giving money was one of the most direct ways supporters around the country could participate in the fight — except when the campaign trundled into their states. And that applies to both campaigns since, by any standard other than up against Obama, Clinton’s 2008 monthly numbers were astounding too.

All time is precious in a general election cycle. But in relative terms we’re in a bit of a downtime now, a lull. People may support Obama every bit as much as they did in February. But my feel of the situation is that people are taking a bit of a breather. And that may not change until the conventions, which are still almost two months off.

Perhaps too, when you hear that Obama’s going to raise hundreds of millions of dollars, that the sense of participation you get from sending in your $25 isn’t quite as great.

I should make explicitly clear that I’ve made no real study of the small donor giving. These are more questions and impressions I have from my perch running TPM. But I wonder if this isn’t a limitation of the small-donor model that has not been sufficiently appreciated.

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