Democrats disappointed with President Barack Obama are withholding campaign donations, leaving him well below his campaign’s fundraising goals, political analyst Karl Rove writes in an opinion column in The Wall Street Journal
Reports issued by the Obama campaign show that donations have trickled in at a rate of about half of the $50 million a month needed to reach the campaign’s goal of a $1 billion war chest for the 2012 race.
Through January, the president had raised an average of $24 million a month for his campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Compared with an average of $29 million in each of the previous three months, reported in July, Obama is on track to fall hundreds of millions of dollars short of his original goal, Rove wrote in Wednesday’s issue of the Journal.
“It’s not for lack of trying,” Rove said. “Mr. Obama has already attended 103 fundraisers, roughly one every three days since he kicked off his campaign last April [twice his predecessor’s pace].”
Reports show that fewer than 7 percent of Obama’s 2008 donors renewed their support in the first quarter of his re-election campaign. The typical renewal rate of contributions is about one-fourth to one-third, Rove said. Former President George W. Bush had a renewal rate of about 20 percent in his 2004 re-election campaign.
Rove pointed to other troubling signs for Obama. His e-mail appeals generally ask for donations of $3, compared to the $10 to $50 donations as they did in 2008.
“Nor are the appeals mostly about issues; many are lotteries. Give three bucks and your name will be put in a drawing for a private dinner with the president and first lady,” Rove writes in the Journal.
“This is clever marketing, but it suggests the campaign has found that only a low price point with a big benefit can overcome donor resistance among people who contributed via mail or the Internet in 2008,” Rove writes. “It also point to higher-than expected solicitation costs and lower-than-expected fundraising returns.”
Statistics also reveal another problem for the president: He is burning through cash at a rapid rate. For instance, his campaign spent 25 percent of what it raised in the second quarter of 2011, compared to Bush’s re-election expenditures of only 9 percent in the first quarter of 2003.
In the third quarter, spending was 46 percent of money raised for Obama compared with 26 percent for Bush; for the fourth quarter, Obama's spending was 57 percent vs. Bush’s 40 percent.
This year, Obama’s numbers worsen, Rove writes in the Journal. In January, his campaign spent 158 percent of its donations, compared with Bush’s 60 percent in January 2004.
Team Obama and the DNC had $91.7 million in cash at the end of January. Bush’s campaign and the Republican National Committee had $122 million in cash at the same point in 2004.
“The Obama campaign’s high burn rate doesn’t come from large television buys, phone banks or mail programs that could be immediately stopped,” Rove writes in the Journal. “It appears to result instead from huge fixed costs for a big staff and higher-than-expected fundraising outlays. These are much tougher to unwind or delay. Left unaltered, they generally lead to even more frantic efforts to both raise money and stop other spending.”
Rove pondered whether these problems perhaps explain why Team Obama told congressional Democrats last week not to expect “a single dime for their campaign efforts from the Democratic National Committee this year. All the DNC funds will be needed for the president’s re-election.”
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