Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Zombie fundraising meme

Last week, Politico Buzzfeed ran a story claiming that Obama is having fundraising problems, noting that many of his 2008 donors haven't given him any money this year. (Here was my response to that.) Today, it followed up with an analysis of where Obama's fundraising shortfall relative to 2008 has been greatest. For the record, I was actually interviewed for this story, and I explained to the reporter (Rebecca Elliott) that I didn't think there was any there there. That is, Obama hasn't received donations this year from a lot of his 2008 donors for one main reason: he didn't face a primary challenger this year, while he was in one of the most competitive presidential nomination races in modern history four years ago. We had a good chat about this, but nothing along these lines made its way into the article.

The new article, meanwhile, starts from the premise that Obama is suffering, and tries to explain why his fundraising shortfall relative to 2008 has been greater in some states than in others. But again, I just don't think there's much here. As Elliott reports, 88% of Obama's 2008 donors nationwide have yet to contribute to him this year, and when you break those figures down by state, the highest shortfall is in Oregon at 91%. Now, if the mean is 88% and the highest value is 91%, it just doesn't sound like we're talking about a whole lot of variation here. The political scientists quoted in the story do a valiant job coming up with some reasons why Western state donors would experience higher dropoff, but it just doesn't sound like there's much of a phenomenon to explain here.

I understand the desire to run stories about how Obama is having a harder time this year than he did in 2008, and that is certainly true in many measurable ways. And who knows -- maybe we'll ultimately find that he did have a hard time raising money. But drawing these comparisons between a campaign with a well-funded opponent and a campaign with no opponent is misleading, and terribly, terribly frustrating.

Update: I inaccurately claimed that the above stories were from Politico. Rather, they were from Buzzfeed.


Greg Marx said...

These articles appeared in Buzzfeed, not Politico.

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