President Obama announced Monday that he was officially launching his 2012 campaign. Amid the hoopla, his campaign also began soliciting online donors to fill his re-election coffers. Obama made his bid for a second term official in an email to supporters with a personal email message and Internet video. The email concludes with a prompt for supporters to donate to the campaign.
“We’re doing this now because the politics we believe in does not start with expensive TV ads or extravaganzas, but with you — with people organizing block-by-block, talking to neighbors, co-workers, and friends. And that kind of campaign takes time to build,” says the email, which Obama signs simply as “Barack.”
“So even though I’m focused on the job you elected me to do, and the race may not reach full speed for a year or more, the work of laying the foundation for our campaign must start today,” the email says.
After Obama signs off, the email concludes with a large red button to click labeled “Donate.”
The nascent Obama campaign clearly would like to re-create the surge of Web-based donations it collected when the president first ran for the White House in 2008. In that campaign, Obama raised nearly $750 million — 60 percent of which came from supporters giving less than $1,000 apiece, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
“About one-third of Obama’s money [in 2008] came strictly from individuals giving less than $200, the threshold for itemized reporting to the Federal Election Commission. That represents more than $235 million,” the center says in a blog post.
In all, the Obama re-election effort reportedly hopes to top its previous haul, eying a total goal of bringing in $1 billion for his re-election. As was the case in 2008, the 2012 campaign also reportedly will rely on large-dollar donors and “bundlers,” as well — supporters who round up large fundraising totals among their networks of like-minded friends.
“Obama’s campaign manager-in-waiting, Jim Messina, has asked the party’s biggest supporters to raise $350,000 each this year, to be shared by Obama’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee, far higher than goals set during the 2008 cycle,” a story in the Washington Post says.
By doing so, Obama once again would be sidestepping the federal system for public financing of presidential elections. That decision proved controversial in 2008.
None of Obama’s potential GOP rivals have yet taken steps to officially launch a campaign against him. Officially announcing early may give Obama an early fundraising boost over whatever Republican opponents do emerge.
Potential GOP candidates include former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin.
In his re-election, Obama also will have to contend with the impact of the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which swept away decades of bipartisan limits on corporate influence in elections. A number of deep-pocketed conservative and business groups last year took advantage of that decision to air torrents of negative attack ads against congressional Democrats.
Those attacks helped defeat record number of Democrats, and swing control of the House of Representatives back to GOP control.
Scott Nance is the publisher of the news site The Washington Current, formerly known as On The Hill. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.