Obama advisers know that whether he is reelected will depend on many things, some of which are out of their control. What they also know is that a victory will rely in part on their ability to reenergize those volunteers, to stitch together the unusual coalition of African Americans, Latinos, young people, women and college-educated white voters who backed Obama in 2008. That is within their control.
Monday’s headlines focused on the president’s “billion-dollar campaign” and the lengths to which campaign manager Jim Messina, among others, has begun wooing big donors and setting large fundraising targets.
The desire to start raising money early should not be underestimated. Obama was extraordinarily successful bringing in small donations in 2008. His haul via the Internet — hundreds of millions of dollars — underscored the bottom-up nature of his candidacy.
He is unlikely to match that again, which means he must raise more money the old-fashioned way — through contributions of $2,500 per donor and bundled by a massive fundraising team that already has its marching orders. That money will fund the Obama operation and the campaign’s television advertising. The president will also help raise money in larger amounts for the Democratic National Committee to fund its role in the campaign.
Money is also on the minds of Obama’s team because of what the Republicans did in the 2010 midterm campaigns. Outside conservative groups raised tens of millions of dollars for independent expenditure ads in competitive Senate and House races. They are gearing up for an even bigger push in 2012.
Four years ago, the Obama operation discouraged such independent expenditure organizations on the Democratic side, preferring to keep control of as much of the campaign message as possible. There is every indication that they have changed their minds and will welcome the creation of an organization to shoulder that responsibility for 2012 with help from close allies who worked on the 2008 campaign and later the White House.
Starting to raise money now also will preclude other Democratic organizations — the House and Senate campaign committees, for example — from soaking up all the available federally regulated money.
So, for all the obvious reasons, money was crucial in starting the campaign early.
But all anyone needs to do is read the short e-mail message and watch the two-minute video that Obama’s advisers e-mailed to supporters Monday.
“We won in 2008 largely on the strength of an energetic group of Americans out there who really were invested in this and we’re going to need that again, no question about it,” said David Axelrod, the chief strategist for the reelection campaign. “It takes time to build.”