Barack Obama’s reversal on public financing supposedly freed him to enjoy the riches of his prolific fundraising, but it also forced him to maintain that rate throughout the campaign. According to the New York Times, Team Obama has gotten very nervous about its finances over the last couple of weeks, and may have fallen far below what they need to conduct the campaign:
After months of record-breaking fund-raising, a new sense of urgency in Senator Barack Obama’s fund-raising team is palpable as the full weight of the campaign’s decision to bypass public financing for the general election is suddenly upon it.
Pushing a fund-raiser later this month, a finance staff member sent a sharply worded note last week to Illinois members of its national finance committee, calling their recent efforts “extremely anemic.” …
The signs of concern have become evident in recent weeks as early fund-raising totals have suggested that Mr. Obama’s decision to bypass public financing may not necessarily afford him the commanding financing advantage over Senator John McCain that many had originally predicted.
How bad could it be? According to one source, a California fundraiser, the DNC only raised $17 million, a drop-off of six million dollars from July — in a month where the party held its convention. The Obama campaign reported a $10 million payday last Thursday, after Sarah Palin’s speech, but apparently that didn’t make the Obama campaign comfortable with their position. In comparison, the McCain campaign raised $47 million and the RNC $22 million in August, their best combined performance by far in the campaign.
David Plouffe tried to spin it as best he could. He claims that a majority of Obama donors have not yet contributed to the general election, and that they expect between $70-80 million over the next two months. Unfortunately, by declining public financing (and reneging on his campaign pledge), Obama turned down $84 million, which he could have received without spending money on fundraising. It’s difficult to see how this decision benefited Obama, if the entire upside now is that Obama will raise slightly less for himself while the DNC continues underperforming against the RNC.
Obama has to announce his August numbers next week, and they’d better be spectacular to offset both his costs and the sudden McCain fundraising juggernaut. One imagines that if they were that good, we’d have seen the numbers by now, but they’ve sandbagged earlier this summer, too. They need at least another $52 million just to keep pace on the top line, and given their burn rate, they may need somewhere around $80 million in order to have as much cash on hand as the Republicans.