Should Team Obama be feeling optimistic or concerned about its fundraising prospects this election cycle?
That depends. It depends, of course, on how fundraising success is measured (Who gave and how much? Compared to what?). We don’t yet know what the Obama campaign’s third quarter fundraising report—Friday marks the end of the quarter—will hold. But we do have the report from last quarter (the first of Obama’s re-election campaign), unofficial accounts of his recent flurry of fundraisers, hints/expectations management from the campaign itself, and Obama’s fundraising history from the 2008 election cycle to help us assess how the Obama campaign is faring in the money chase (or, if you prefer, cash dash or money grab or money rush). And, from different combinations of these things, different pictures can be painted.
Here’s an optimistic take from Reuters this morning below the headline, “Obama West Coast Swing shows fundraising strength”:
President Barack Obama topped up his re-election war chest with a string of successful West Coast fundraisers that ended Monday and showed soft poll numbers had not dented his ability to raise big money.
Despite tough economic times, supporters shelled out for events from Seattle to San Diego that likely raised upward of $5 million in two days, paying up to the legal limit of $35,800 to hear Obama speak .
Obama’s approval rating dropped over the summer as concern mounted the United States was headed into a second recession, but he has still been able to pull in plenty of fundraising dollars.
His campaign team also said it was close to racking up a million donors, recalling his massive grass-roots fundraising push that helped him win the White House in 2008.
Tour events have been crammed with guests, who applauded loud and long in response to his intensified criticism of Republicans and his oft-repeated call for Congress to pass his $447 billion jobs bill.
Any sense of unease among supporters has not hurt fundraising, with a second-quarter total of $86 million on behalf of both his own campaign and that of the Democratic Party.
By focusing on Obama’s recent big-money fundraising swoop (lots of people bought expensive tickets and applauded loudly), noting the campaign’s claim that it will soon have one million donors (read: small donors, too!), and lumping the Obama campaign’s second quarter haul ($46 million) with the DNC’s for a total of $86 million, Reuters finds the glass half-full (not that the last point isn’t legit—or unique to Reuters—as much of what the DNC collects will go to Obama’s re-election efforts).
Then there’s this less sunny report out of San Jose from the Associated Press (headline: “Fundraiser Obama works in tough money environment”):
This is no 2008, when money seemed to fall from the sky for a young senator named Barack Obama.
In theory, fundraising should be even easier this time for the Democrat who shattered money records in his first White House campaign. He’s the president now, with an unparalleled bullhorn and reach.
But his title isn’t all that’s changed. The economy is sickly, and he’s in charge. That’s not only threatening his re-election; it’s also making it more difficult to inspire people to open their checkbooks for his campaign.
Many of the core supporters he counted on last time for small-dollar donations are disgruntled now. Some are personally cash-strapped. And he’s had to cancel a slew of fundraisers as he tends to the business of governing a country that some fear could slide back into a recession.
So, according to Reuters, “tough economic times” haven’t much hurt Obama’s fundraising, big-dollar or grass-roots. Meanwhile, the AP reports that the “sour” “sickly” economy is contributing to a tough fundraising road for Obama, as supporters are slower to reach for their wallets—even his “core” small-dollar donors of ’08 who are now disillusioned and/or broke. That flurry of West Coast fundraisers that Reuters read as showing “strength?” The AP presents them as a hustle, with “an important reporting deadline on Friday,” to make up for having had to “cancel a slew of fundraisers” during the debt crisis this summer and for the challenge of winning back now “disgruntled” small donors. Obama is “still outpacing his Republican rivals in the money chase by the tens of millions,” notes the AP, but compared to Obama 2008, Obama 2012 may not match up.