A Washington Post analysis shows that nearly half of his campaign contributions, and a quarter of the money he has raised for the Democratic Party, has come from donors giving less than $200. That’s much higher than it was in 2008 and far beyond what the best-funded Republicans have managed.
Mitt Romney and Rick Perry, the leading GOP fundraisers, have embraced a traditional approach, focusing on big-dollar contributors who can fill coffers without the high overhead costs of a campaign targeting small donations, the analysis shows.
Business executive Herman Cain has had more success with small donors, who have helped propel a surge in contributions to the candidate in recent weeks.
A grass-roots-oriented campaign presents opportunities and risks for Obama, who is weighed down by the stagnant economy, a glum public mood and signs of disaffection among Democrats.
The focus is rooted in the belief that donors, even if they give only a few dollars, are more committed to their candidate than those who have not written a check.
“The number of small donations shows who it is that supports this president and who put him there,” said Katherine Hahn, a self-described “mom and artist” from Evergreen, Colo., who gives Obama $25 a month. “It wasn’t the powers that be so much as it was people like me.”
But relying on donors of modest means could limit the fundraising ability of the president, whose campaign is already showing signs that it is struggling to bring in big donations. Fewer than 6,000 contributors had given Obama $2,500 or more through September.
That compares with more than 8,000 maxed-out donors giving to Romney. And if Romney wins the nomination, the same people will be able to give much larger amounts to his campaign and the Republican Party.
“We always knew we needed to build a broad-based support network, and we try not to rely too much on one thing,” Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said in an interview. “Our experience is that people who give become volunteers, and people who volunteer become donors. We want to build a relationship with them.”
Republicans say their eventual nominee will have plenty of time to build widespread excitement after the primaries.
“The role of small donors is the same as large donors — to participate in our campaign community, one that is eager to replace President Obama with a new leader who can get our country back on track,” said Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul. She said 83 percent of Romney’s donors in the third quarter gave less than $250.