Published July 18, 2011
President Obama's campaign fundraising last quarter was impressive -- he raised $48.7 million for his campaign and more than $38 million for the Democratic National Committee.
But it wasn't as good as I expected, especially given how much time Mr. Obama personally invested.
According to CBS radio's Mark Knoller, who also serves as the unofficial White House press corps statistics king, the president attended 31 fundraisers in nine states during the last three months. That is more than a fundraising reception or dinner every three days.
This flurry of fundraising events was the main reason Mr. Obama posted the biggest first quarter cash total for a presidential reelection. But is that pace sustainable? No.
Thirty-one fundraisers in a quarter is a big strain on any president's schedule. Mr. Obama can’t keep that pace up and not just because he's got a day job. There are also just so many cities capable of producing $1 million and only so many times you can hold a million dollar fundraiser in them.
The president held six fundraising events each in California and New York. Even these two bastions of rich liberals have a finite amount of $2,500 donors. Mr. Obama is front-loading campaign cash and won't regularly get this amount of big buck donations each quarter.
Even though at least $35 million (almost half the total Obama/DNC haul) can be credited to just 244 well-connected “bundlers,” Team Obama made a big thing of their 260,000 new small dollar donors. But that means only 292,000 donors from his last campaign have renewed their support for the re-elect so far. That's just 6.6 percent of the 3.95 million people who donated to the '08 Obama effort, only a quarter to a third of what most reelect campaigns could expect from renewal efforts at this point.
Perhaps there really is donor fatigue among the legions of stalwarts who put Mr. Obama in the White House the first time.
Further evidence of Team Obama's challenge is something The Washington Post spotted, namely that the campaign reported "uncommonly high fundraising and mail costs." This is evidence that even Team Obama found the first quarter more challenging than they anticipated. It may have even led them to the (somewhat) embarrassing pitch for $5 for a lottery offering a chance to share a meal with Mr. Obama, which the campaign later hyped by saying Vice President Joe Biden would also be given a seat at the table.
If Mr. Obama is to match his 2007-08 fundraising total of $745 million, then the campaign will have to raise on average $133 million in each of the 5 1/2 quarters left in this election. And if the president and the DNC are to reach their $1 billion goal, they'll need to up their game dramatically, raising on average a combined $183 million a quarter.
If Mr. Obama couldn't hit this mark in his first quarter with a record number of personal appearances for fundraising, I doubt he will reach it in many of the quarters ahead.
I'm impressed with what Mr. Obama did but not as impressed as I thought I’d be.
If I were his campaign team in Chicago or his West Wing political consigliere, David Plouffe, I'd be more than a little worried that their billion-dollar goal is out of reach.