Obama Supporters Barraged With Pleas for Cash
By MICHAEL D. SHEAR
Each plea for money from President Obama and his allies has become more urgent and desperate than the last.
His campaign’s chief operating officer said on Monday that “we’ve gotten our behinds handed to us.”
Vice President Joe Biden warned on the same day that Mr. Obama would lose if “the other side spends us into oblivion.”
Michele Obama worried aloud about waking up on election day “wondering if I could have done more.” And Al Gore, the former vice president, said victories by the “extremist fringe” would “spell disaster” for the country.
The answer, according to all of them? A donation of $3 (or more) by midnight on Tuesday. (The e-mails don’t say “Pretty please!” — yet.)
The urgent and repeated appeals, sent to millions of Mr. Obama’s supporters via e-mail and text messages, are a vivid reminder that the president’s campaign is likely to raise significantly less than Mitt Romney and Republicans for the third month in a row in July.
Neither campaign has released their fund-raising totals for the month yet. They are required to report those totals to the Federal Elections Commission by Aug. 15.
In the meantime, the result is a Democratic campaign that is trying to portray the sitting president as a financial underdog whose ability to stay in the White House depends on the largess of his army of everyday supporters.
“My upcoming birthday next week could be the last one I celebrate as President of the United States, but that’s not up to me — it’s up to you,” Mr. Obama said to his supporters in an e-mail late last week.
Accompanying the e-mail was a link to donate in exchange for a chance to attend his “birthday get-together” in August.
The dire hand-wringing is partly tactical for a campaign that is likely to have more than enough money to execute its strategy. By appearing desperate, Mr. Obama’s campaign hopes it can persuade more of its supporters to donate now, rather than later.
But in fact, Mr. Obama is facing a quandary his 2008 campaign team never even contemplated: a rival whose fund-raising operation appears better positioned to tap into both the deep pockets of wealthy donors and the economic frustrations of average Americans.
In May, that translated into a $17 million edge for Mr. Romney. The next month, the Republican candidate and the party apparatus took in $37 million more than Mr. Obama and the Democratic party structure.
And that understates the advantage that Mr. Romney could have in the fall campaign as well-financed outside political groups pour hundreds of millions of dollars into ads against the president.
In briefings with reporters, Mr. Obama’s campaign predicted total spending on Mr. Romney’s behalf of $1.25 billion. “Make no mistake, we will be outspent,” a top adviser to Mr. Obama said at a Washington briefing for the media in July.
Regardless of the real impact on Mr. Obama’s campaign operations, there’s an image problem to worry about.
The appeals for donations occasionally recall the “Everything 80 percent off! Going out of Business” sales that try to entice customers into the store. And yet, Mr. Obama’s campaign team has clearly calculated that it is willing to risk leaving that kind of impression if it means raising more money.