New York magazine just published a hefty piece
by John Heilemann giving a behind-the-scenes look at the coming
election from the point of view of the Obama campaign. The O-team is
confident they'll win, we're told, and yet Heilemann conveys a real
sense of foreboding campaign insiders seem to share on one issue: money.
unprecedented flood of dollars that is about to engulf the presidential
race—and the near certainty that the majority of them will be spent by
the Republicans—is what keeps [Campaign manager Jim] Messina and his
brethren awake at night, gnawing at their fingernails like a pack of
feral crystal addicts after a hellacious weeklong binge...
money is a huge problem,” confides a senior campaign maven. “We’ll see
how long we can stand it. The money alone can’t beat us, but if we get
bad jobs numbers a couple months in a row, then all of a sudden, things
could get kinda hairy.”...
Although Obama is surely raising a
boatload of dough, it appears his campaign (combined with the DNC) could
fall short of its goal of $750 million. (Its April fund-raising total
declined to $43.6 million from $53 million in March.) Meanwhile, the
pro-Obama �super-PAC, Priorities USA Action, has raised less than $10
million since setting up shop more than a year ago—$2 million of it from
Jeffrey Katzenberg—leading a highly placed Democrat involved in the
reelection effort to describe it to me as a “fucking abysmal
[I]n the end, the cumulative spending on the Democratic side will be
about $1 billion, compared with maybe $1.6 billion on the Republican
“It concerns me gravely,” [Senior Adviser David] Plouffe tells me.
“From a political standpoint, I’m almost as worried about that as I am
about the question of what the economy’s gonna do over the next three or
If the Obama team is nervous, it may be because they have no
experience playing from behind. In 2008, Obama jettisoned his commitment
to public financing and eventually raised $750 million over 21 months. That was more than triple the $238 million raised by his opponent John McCain.
And contrary to what the Obama team says now about beating the coming
Romney ad blitz with their solid ground game, that's not how they
fought in 2008. As the Post's Chris Cillizza reported
in October of that year, the Obama team spent three times as much on TV
ads as the McCain camp during the final weeks of the election. The DNC
also had a 2:1 edge in ad dollars over the RNC in early October, though the spending was reportedly even the last two weeks before the election.
This is a team that's used to having a big money advantage
to help coordinate their media. That's not going to be the case this time out. That's one reason, according to Heilemann, why "2008’s candidate of hope stands poised to become 2012’s candidate of fear."