Obama Campaign Pressures Potential Donors by Comparing Them With Neighbors

The Obama campaign is testing a new approach to fundraising, blasting out emails that ever-so-gently shame supporters into donating.

Before the end of the third-quarter fundraising deadline last month, the campaign sent around specially tailored messages to those on their email list who hadn't yet contributed to President Obama's 2012 reelection fund. Campaign Manager Jim Messina urged them to chip in, by pointing out how many of their neighbors had already done so.

An email sent to a New York recipient read as follows: "Here's something you don't have in common with 15,049 other supporters of this movement who tell us they live in New York, NY."

Messina went on to say that all those donors "had their own personal reason for giving," and reiterated that "our records show that you aren't one of the 15,049 people where you're from who have stepped up for 2012.

"Now's your chance to change that," Messina wrote. The email then asked for a minimum donation of $3 to help the campaign reach its goal of attracting 1 million donors.

The emails took on a personal and local tone, giving stats in each community for how many Obama supporters had already donated. One email sent to Grayslake, Ill., noted that 160 people had "stepped up" for the president.

The Obama campaign did not return a request for comment on the messages.

Brad Blakeman, who worked on the 2000 Bush campaign and in the Bush White House, said he's never seen a fundraising pitch quite like it -- and there's a reason for that.

"It's a scare tactic," he said, claiming the message suggests to recipients that "your neighbors are going to know if you didn't donate."

He said the approach will probably work on some people but is "more detrimental than it is beneficial."

As in 2008, the Obama campaign is using the Internet and email and social media in new ways to reach voters. The campaign has incorporated the president's push for his $447 billion jobs bill into its 2012 operation, sending out an email earlier this week directing supporters to use their online tool to pressure GOP members of Congress on Twitter to back the bill.

The campaign also set up Attackwatch.com for supporters to report "smears" about the president, presumably so they can be shot down. And the campaign has used fundraising emails to raffle off tickets to dinner with the president.

The Obama campaign has not yet announced its third-quarter fundraising totals. The campaign raked in close to $50 million for the second quarter -- a combined $86 million with the Democratic National Committee, setting a record. That was more than the GOP field.