Change: Major donors not cutting checks to Obama's campaign this time

So here’s the solution to yesterday’s mystery of why Team Hopenchange would court scandal by continuing to rely on Jon Corzine as a major bundler. Plain and simple: Beggars can’t be choosers.

From Wall Street to Hollywood, from doctors and lawyers, the traditional big sources of campaign cash are not delivering for the Obama campaign as they did four years ago. The falloff has left his fund-raising totals running behind where they were at the same point in 2008 — though well ahead of Mr. Romney’s — and has induced growing concern among aides and supporters as they confront the prospect that Republicans and their “super PAC” allies will hold a substantial advantage this fall…

With no primary to excite his base, the economy struggling to rebound, and four years of political battles with Wall Street and other industries taking their toll, Mr. Obama’s campaign raised about $196 million through March, compared with $235 million at the same point in 2008. It has lagged behind its own internal quotas in some cities, according to people involved with the fund-raising efforts. But that has been offset by a highly successful joint fund-raising program with the national committee, which raised about $150 million, twice as much as in 2008

All told, about 58 percent of Mr. Obama’s total fund-raising during the election has come in checks of less than $200, compared with about 38 percent in 2008. In March alone, Mr. Obama took in $14.2 million worth of checks under $200 — more than all the money his campaign raised in February.

Is it fair to call Team O a “beggar” when they have literally 10 times as much cash in the bank as Romney’s campaign and are still likely to raise upwards of $750 million in conjunction with the DNC? Actually, here’s a better question: How useful is it to look at the fundraising numbers for a presidential campaign in isolation when campaigns these days operate in close coordination with the national committee and (for all intents and purposes) with Super PACs? Obama’s campaign might be off the pace from 2008 but the campaign plus the DNC, which can help bankroll him in the fall, are doing just fine. Where O’s really lacking so far is in Super PAC money; conversely, while the GOP has oceans of money for attack ads flowing in to Super PACs, Romney’s campaign fundraising has been comparatively weak. (That’s partly a byproduct of a contentious primary, which is now over, but it also reflects the reality that for righties 2012 is more about beating Obama than electing Mitt.) Consider that another reason why they’re willing to play ball with Corzine: Because their Super PAC is struggling, they depend more on their bundlers to pick up the slack.

The good news for conservatives isn’t that O might run short of funds but that he’ll be forced to rely more on the DNC for cash, which in turns means less money available in October for vulnerable Democratic senators and congressmen who desperately need it. As the NYT notes, Jim Messina’s already warned congressional Democrats not to come knocking on Debbie Wasserman-Schultz’s door looking for help since the DNC’s haul this year is reserved for His Royal Highness. O likes to tell voters that “we’re all in this together,” but when it comes to his reelection it’s every man for himself. The other interesting detail above is that, for all the hype about Obama’s people-powered campaign in 2008, the fall-off in large donors means he’s relying more heavily on small donors this year. Can a guy who’s now seen mainly as a failed messiah bankroll his reelection by squeezing more cash out of Hopenchange dead-enders? We’ll find out. In the meantime, with fewer rich donors willing to help, the White House will have to figure out ways to get them to pony up. Which, of course, is how we end up with stories like this.

Exit question: I know what I said about not looking at campaign fundraising in isolation from RNC and Super PAC money, but shouldn’t we be a little concerned with the last two graphs here?