Democrats worried that they face certain wipeout in the November elections take heart: the party isn’t merely waiting for an inevitable defeat.
Not only are campaign donations continuing to pour in, Democrats have seen the percentage of overall contributions coming through online increase by 62 percent, comparing the second quarter of 2008 with the second quarter of 2010, according to a company that provides fundraising and compliance software for Democratic campaigns.
Meanwhile, a political operation close to President Obama is not waiting to defend Democrats who must face voters this year and has begun undertaking crucial get-out-the-vote activities which are needed to win elections.
The rise in Internet-based donations runs counter to what has become a pervasive theme that Democrats enter the 2010 midterm elections as the decided underdogs. Defending the majority they established in the 2006 and 2008 cycles, Democrats are seen as having much more to lose by this year’s deep anti-incumbent mood among the electorate.
Democrats also have to defend dozens of congressional seats in conservative districts won in 2008 by Republican presidential nominee John McCain.
The difficulty of the political terrain Democrats must overcome was thrown into sharp relief this week, as White House press secretary Robert Gibbs experienced serious blowback for acknowledging in a nationally televised interview that House Democrats could well lose their majority this year.
Despite such bleak news, Democrats apparently won’t go into battle this year empty-handed, according to the assessment by NGP Software, which provides campaign infrastructure to more than 1,700 campaign-related clients, and a majority of Democratic campaigns using its online fundraising tools.
“NGP’s analysis shows that many Democratic campaigns are running more sophisticated online fundraising efforts in 2010, and as a result they’re raising dramatically more online,” says NGP CEO Stu Trevelyan.
Democrats likely will need all the money they can get, given the January Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court. That ruling by the court’s conservative bloc swept away decades of limitations on corporate influence in elections. The decision, in effect, now will allow corporate interests to spend virtually unlimited amounts to oppose Democrats and President Obama’s reform agenda.
NGP attributes the growth in Democrats’ online haul to several factors:
Increased comfort with online giving: Individuals who have made an initial contribution online are much more likely to make subsequent contributions through that channel.
Improved online campaigns: NGP has seen an increase in the number of clients using sophisticated features that harness their donor data to ensure they never leave money on the table. For instance, NGP clients have the ability to create a “contribute” link in an email that populates a contribution page with a donor’s highest previous contribution amount, whether the previous contribution was made online or off. Another example: more and more clients are taking advantage of NGP’s recently release feature allowing campaigns to accept contributions through their mobile phones.
Increased adoption of social networking: Leveraging supporters’ social networks makes it easier to recruit new contributors. For example, NGP’s clients use Personal Fundraising Pages to provide their supporters with the tools to establish goals and raise money from their friends and family, extending their campaigns’ reach. Clients are also using the social network integrations provided in NGP’s tools to connect with supporters on Twitter, as well as to accept contributions and share their decision to support a campaign on Facebook.
Internet-based political giving continues to democratize political engagement, giving greater voice to a larger number of small-dollar contributors, NGP says in a statement. While overall online contributions soared, the average online contribution amount decreased from $258.72 in the second quarter of 2008, to $211.34 in the second quarter this year. The online channel also continues to drive down the average donation across both online/offline, which fell from $471.92 in the second quarter of 2008, to $357.81 in the same period this year, the company adds.
Meanwhile, Organizing For America (OFA) is asking supporters to begin coming out to community events to begin knocking on doors, making phone calls, and registering the voters — essentially beginning the “ground war” Democrats will wage against Republicans leading up to Election Day.
Housed within the Democratic National Committee, OFA was assembled from Obama’s personal 2008 presidential campaign operation. It sends out emails under the “barackobama.com” domain address.
OFA Deputy Director Jeremy Bird cites what he terms as “stark reminders this week of exactly what’s at stake in the coming elections,” such as comments by Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle that the work of a Democratic Congress might require “Second Amendment remedies,” and a remark by firebrand Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) that Obama is turning America into “a nation of slaves.”
Further, in his email, Bird includes a photo of a billboard in Iowa featuring the president’s image next to those of Adolf Hitler and Vladimir Lenin.
“It all shows that we don’t have a moment to lose as we organize our communities to get out and vote, to fight back against these extremists — and why your time and energy is so crucial to the success of this movement,” Bird says.
OFA this week will begin holding what it calls “Vote 2010 Day of Action” events.
“Our formula to win against this hateful — and, frankly, disturbing — opposition is simple: register new voters, and get as many first-time voters from 2008 as possible back to the polls,” Bird says. “If it sounds familiar, it’s because Barack Obama followed a very similar path to victory in 2008 — registering new voters and getting millions of folks to the polls for the first time.”
The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.