Politicians use their e-mail lists to continually hit their base with requests for donations. Everyone who puts their name on a political list expects to see those e-mails on a constant basis, usually tied to the news cycle. Michele Bachmann’s campaign is particularly adept at this, with missives that start by saying something like this completely hypothetical opening sentence: “Senate Democrats passed a tax increase on job creators last week, so it’s more important than ever to have me in the House fighting for our economic health.” That kind of moment-to-moment marketing approach both uses potential flash points to encourage donations, and sends a more subtle message that the politician is focused like a laser on his or her job.
Barack Obama’s campaign contribution e-mails send a less-subtle subtext message, the New York Times’ Michael Shear reports — desperation:
The dire hand-wringing is partly tactical for a campaign that is likely to have more than enough money to execute its strategy. By appearing desperate, Mr. Obama’s campaign hopes it can persuade more of its supporters to donate now, rather than later. …
Regardless of the real impact on Mr. Obama’s campaign operations, there’s an image problem to worry about.
The appeals for donations occasionally recall the “Everything 80 percent off! Going out of Business” sales that try to entice customers into the store. And yet, Mr. Obama’s campaign team has clearly calculated that it is willing to risk leaving that kind of impression if it means raising more money.
One of the many e-mails sent by the Obama campaign to supporters on Monday had the subject line: Romney defeats Obama?
Some of the desperation is marketing strategy, but most of it is real, Shear notes. Team Romney/RNC outraised Team Obama/DNC in both May (by $17 million) and June (by $37 million). There is no indication that July will be any different. Obama’s campaign apparently never figured that they could be outraised one-on-one by a Republican candidate, although most people figured that the GOP would gain an edge with outside-group spending. Now it looks like Obama will get buried — and his 3:1 spending lead of the last three months has failed to slow Romney’s momentum. Hence, the panic that has flooded into their campaign missives.
The problem with that kind of marketing strategy is that it presupposes Obama to be a loser. Americans love underdogs — in sports. Remember Morrissey’s Axiom: In love and politics, desperation is not an aphrodisiac. We have a strong tendency to jump on bandwagons when the direction of an election becomes clear, buying into what the perceived final outcome will be. By showering their e-mail base with messages of desperation and panic, Team Obama is more likely to demoralize and disincentivize their base, especially given their utter failure to demonize Mitt Romney with the Bain attacks.
On the other hand, we can’t be too critical of this strategy. In a campaign that keeps trying to sell Romney as a scary vampire capitalist who eats jobs and may even be a felon!!1!11!, the desperation strategy may be the most honest approach Team Obama has tried over the last three months.