After months of record-breaking fundraising, a new sense of urgency in Sen. Barack Obama’s fundraising team is palpable as the full weight of the campaign’s decision to bypass public financing for the general election is suddenly upon them.
Pushing a fundraiser later this month, a finance staff member sent a sharply worded note last week to Illinois members of Obama’s national finance committee, calling their recent efforts “extremely anemic.”
At a convention-week meeting in Denver of the campaign’s top fundraisers, buttons with the image of a money tree were distributed to those who had already contributed the maximum $2,300 to the general election, a subtle reminder to those who had failed to ante up.
The signs of concern have become evident in recent weeks as early fundraising totals have suggested Obama’s decision to bypass public financing may not necessarily afford him the commanding financing advantage over Sen. John McCain that many had originally predicted.
Presidential candidates in a general election have typically relied on two main sources of money —public financing, along with additional money that their parties raise. In choosing to accept the public money, the McCain campaign now gets an $84 million cash infusion from the U.S. Treasury.
McCain is barred from raising any more money for his own campaign coffers but can lean on money raised by the Republican National Committee, which has continued to exceed expectations.
Meanwhile, the Obama campaign had calculated that with its vaunted fundraising machine, driven by both small contributors over the Internet and a powerful high-dollar donor network, it made more sense to forego public financing so they could raise and spend unlimited sums.
But the campaign is struggling to meet ambitious fundraising goals it set for the campaign and the party. It collected in June and July far less from Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s donors than originally projected. Moreover, McCain, unlike Obama, will have the luxury of concentrating almost entirely on campaigning instead of raising money, as Obama must do.