Obama Doesn't Have a Small-Donor Problem

Mitt Romney's struggle to attract small-dollar donors has been well documented. Just 10 percent of his money has come from donations of less than $200, while the vast majority of his money has come from nearly maxed-out contributions. Even though Newt Gingrich lags by a wide margin in overall funding, he's managed to gather more money from small donors, $8.8 million to Romney's $6.4 million. The fundraising gap is large enough thanks to wealthy donors that Romney should be fine for the remaining primaries, but it could spell trouble for the general election. Romney has a smaller base of donors to turn to for further contributions, and the tepid rate of small checks is an indication that Romney has failed to trigger much excitement among regular voters.

Now that's being flipped by The Washington Post, which ran an article speculating that Obama is in trouble by relying too much on small-figure donors:

But Obama lags behind Republican front-runner Mitt Romney in finding donors willing to give $2,000 or more — a surprising development for a sitting president, and one that could signal more worrisome financial problems heading into the general election. At this point in the last election cycle, Obama had received such large donations from more than 23,000 supporters, more than double the 11,000 who have given him that much this time. President George W. Bush had more than four times that number of big donations at this point in his reelection.

I don't think the Obama campaign has any reason to be alarmed. Obama has outraised Romney and the other GOP candidates by wide margins to date, and Romney has been forced to waste more money on this prolonged nomination fight than most expected at the start of the year. Obama's campaign announced this morning that it raised $45 million in February alone. The clip of donations will only increase once the Republican nomination is settled and it becomes a clearly defined head-to-head race. The person writing a $50 check in February will probably be responsive to calls for a few more small donations between now and November, and those untapped contributors are the bulk of Obama's supporters.

Romney won't have that luxury. He'll get a slight boost after the convention in August; the cap on individual contributions applies separately for the primary campaign and the general election, allowing Romney to call up those $2,500 donors for a bit more money, though many have kicked in to his general-election fund alongside the primary-campaign donations. Unless Romney can start anew and inspire an enthusiasm that has so far eluded his campaign, he'll have trouble broadening his base of support and the problem will repeat itself—except this time, Romney will be facing the Obama fundraising juggernaut instead of the hapless efforts of Santorum and Gingrich.

 

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