Will President Obama be the first billion dollar man? Probably not.
In a web video released in the wee hours of Thursday morning, Jim Messina, who is managing President Obama’s re-election race, had a message for those speculating about how much the incumbent might raise in pursuit of a second term.
“The billion dollar number is completely untrue,” Messina said, addressing speculation that the Obama fundraising operation will break ten (!) figures in 2012. (Messina has previously referred to the idea of raising a billion dollars as “bullsh**”.)
But is that just spin aimed at dialing back expectations from Messina? Is a billion dollar fundraising effort still a possibility?
Let’s break down the numbers.
Obama raised $130 million in nine months of active cash collection in 2011. That puts him about $30 million ahead of the $103.5 million he raised as candidate Obama in a full year’s worth of active fundraising in 2007.
In 2008, Obama went on to raise another $665 million dollars — bringing his grand total to roughly $770 million raised for the two year election cycle.
Here’s a breakdown of how he did it by month in 2008:
While’s it is possible that Obama could replicate that sort of fundraising success between now and November, it’s going to be very tough. A quick bit of back-of-the-envelope math reveals that in the 10 months of active fundraising prior to the 2008 election, Obama averaged — yes, averaged — $66 million raised a month.
(So far in 2011, he hasn’t come anywhere close to that number; his best three months of fundraising — from April 1 through June 30 — brought in $46 million.)
Even if Obama could replicate his blistering 2008 pace, he would only raise in the neighborhood of $800 million for the 2012 election. (He began 2012 with $30 million more raised than he started with in 2008 .)
To raise the $870 million he needs to get to a billion, Obama would need to raise, roughly, $87 million a month, every month, between now and the end of October.
Possible? Sure. Probable? No.
“There is no way President Obama will meet the billion dollar goal on his current pace,” said Jack Oliver, who served as national finance director for then Texas Gov. George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential bid.
Not reaching $1 billion, however, doesn’t mean Obama’s fundraising haul is unimpressive. (The Obama team has long bristled at the idea that raising ten figures is even a remote possibility.) His $130 million raised in 2011 is roughly equivalent to the $132.5 million Bush raised in 2003 and dwarfs the $56 million that former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, the Republican frontrunner, brought in over the past year.
Obama won’t win or lose his race for a second term due to dearth of campaign cash. But a billion dollar man he (almost certainly) won’t be.