“It was a Saturday or Sunday afternoon and I thought, ‘Good heavens, I already got two e-mails from him today,’ ” said Thomason, political editor of the “Left In Alabama” Web site. “You have to think it must work, and they’re just trying to break through all the noise. But it’s just too much to take after a while.”
Eager to gain advantage in a tight and expensive election year, political campaigns are drowning their most ardent supporters in a deluge of messages begging for cash. The pleas from Obama, Republican challenger Mitt Romney and a host of other political figures are at turns cajoling, intimate and sometimes downright panicked — all aimed at squeezing another $3 or $300 out of loyal donors.
“Nightmare,” read the subject line to one missive sent last weekend by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, warning that Obama could lose. “If we don’t fight back, it’ll be over long before November.”
The push for donations is easier than ever by the the ubiquity of e-mail, social media and texting services, all of which can be ruthlessly exploited for fundraising pitches. Both major presidential candidates are aggressively using such technology to shape their messages and operations, including new iPhone apps released last week aimed at getting supporters more involved in their campaigns.
But political strategists from both parties warn that campaigns must be careful to avoid alienating their most devoted followers with an endless tide of fundraising e-mails. Almost by definition, those who receive the most donation requests have also given to the campaigns already and, in many cases, are annoyed at being pestered for even more.
“The question really isn’t whether or not an aggressive e-mail plan will produce money, because almost all fundraising e-mails will,” said Austin James, vice president for digital strategy at Gridiron Communications, a Republican consulting firm. “It is about the frequency and tone with which you ask for money that plays into the overall health of your list and perception of your campaign.”
In trolling for cash, nothing approaches the sheer assertiveness of the Obama campaign, which had 13 million names on its initial e-mail list and has pushed into overdrive after falling behind Romney in monthly fundraising. The Romney campaign and its affiliates raised $183 million in May and June, compared with $131 million for Obama’s operation.
ProPublica, the nonprofit investigative journalism Web site, has collected more than 600 separate fundraising e-mails from the Obama campaign this year, nearly all of them sent in the past three months. The group has tallied about 100 similar messages from the Romney campaign, which is less focused on small-dollar donations.