This weekend, in advance of tonight’s deadline for 3rd Quarter fundraising, the Obama campaign said it was on track to reach an impressive milestone for the year; its 10 millionth donation. Going into this weekend, more than 9,700,000 separate donations had been made to the Obama campaign. With a final push over the weekend, its entirely plausible the campaign will reach this goal.
In 2008, the Obama campaign completely upended fundraising for Presidential campaigns by capturing more donations on-line than anyone thought possible. In that campaign, Obama raised over $500 million dollars on-line, an overwhelming majority of its total donations from individuals. Over $300 million of its on-line donations were less than $200, the level which triggers disclosure of the donors.
Surprisingly, Obama looks on track to surpass even his 08 record numbers. This is likely powered by his on-line donation machine, as his more traditional fundraising has been lackluster compared to 08.
Obama does have a very sophisticated on-line fundraising outreach. This weekend, my wife, who’s a professional fundraising consultant, made on on-line donation to Romney and, for comparison, donated a token amount to Obama. Within minutes, both campaigns sent emails thanking her. But, the Obama campaign sent two, from specific individuals. Romney’s thank you email was from firstname.lastname@example.org. Not exactly a personalized message. Considering that she made a significant contribution to Romney, it was a bit of a shallow thanks.
Still, Obama’s continued success with on-line, small dollar donations is a bit surprising. There doesn’t appear to be anything like the energy surrounding the 08 campaign. In 08, he consistently polled above 50% and his favorables were much higher. Today, he is generally mired in the 40s and his job approval is flat or slightly underwater.
He also has a record that, while maybe acceptable to a committed partisan, isn’t the kind that would propel people to part with their hard-earned money. He was a prophet of hope in 08. This year, he is just another politician running for reelection.
Democrat party affiliation is down compared to 08. Democrat enthusiasm is generally lower than GOP enthusiasm. Obama is speaking to fewer voters in smaller venues than he did in his first campaign. That he can maintain the massive on-line fundraising edge he had last time suggests he really has built something unprecedented.