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A Primer for the 3Q Obama for America (OfA) numbers.

Well, the 3rd quarter is over, which means that the set of speculation over various and sundry people’s fundraising totals may now kick into high gear. Probably the most anticipated numbers will be coming from Obama for America (OfA), given their haul last time – and their brags this time. The Politico has started off with an eye-grabbing headline – “Obama 3Q haul: $55M or more?” (H/T: Hot Air)- which is at least something that we can use to start looking at numbers. And write elaborate posts about them, for that matter.

Let’s go with the traditional bullet points on what needs to be taken into account at this stage of fundraising reporting.

  • The Obama campaign likes to low-ball its initial fundraising estimates. I note this with neither approval nor disapproval: it’s a perfectly legitimate tactic, as long as you don’t overdo it. So don’t be surprised if that $55 million ticks upward.
  • That $55 million number is a combined total. We went over why this was an important point to make last quarter: to summarize, OfA generated $773 million specifically for Obama’s campaign in 2008. We weren’t including the DNC totals then, so we should not include the DNC totals in assessing the likelihood of the President raising a billion (or 750 million) dollars now. Unless, of course, the Democrats just want to admit that they’re not going to raise even close to the same amount of money this go-round.
  • So, what are the real target numbers? Well, so far the President has personally raised almost $47 million this year. In the 2008 cycle Obama raised almost $104 million in his first year, or about 13.43% of his total haul. Depending on whether you’re holding the President to that one billion number or not, Obama thus has to either raise $134 or $101 million in 2011 in order to have a year comparable to 2007’s. That makes his target number either $34 or $25 million for 3Q 2011. This is not out of reach for the President; remember, his 1Q 2011 was extremely bad, when compared to 2007’s (not surprising).
  • The real problem for Obama is 2012. The problem for OfA is that if you concede that they should be judged in 2011 by 2007’s numbers then it’s fair to judge them in 2012 by 2008’s. And Obama’s quarterly goal for that, again depending on whether it’s one billion or $750 million, would have to average $216 or $162 million a quarter ($72/54 million a month). Put it another, less math-y way: Barack Obama is going to have to duplicate the mass wave of Messianic euphoria that propelled his fundraising to such heights in the last election. But to do that he needs to get access to donors. Lots and lots of donors.
  • And now you know why the President wants your five dollars. It’s not for bragging rights and it’s not because your five bucks will make a difference; it’s because with your five bucks comes your contact information, and anybody who sends Obama money now may reliably expect in the future to be essentially spammed by the President every day, starting probably in June.

To sum up: President Obama is – through dint of hard effort – so far managing to stay more or less on track with his fundraising brags; but this year is the easy part. Next year Obama’s going to have to more or less triple his game, and there’s not really any indication so far that the President is on track to replicate 2008’s, and I use the term deliberately, magic. Which I suspect that the OfA campaign team kind of knows. All of this should be reflected in the video that OfA puts together in a couple of weeks to spin the 3Q 2011 results: you should expect that Jim Messina will spend most of it again talking about all the people that OfA has signed up and speaking very little about how much money that OfA has raised.

And you should also expect spam next year. Lots and lots and lots of spam. At levels undreamed of by the minds of mortal men.

Moe Lane (crosspost)

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