Tue, Apr 05, 2011 - Page 7 News List

ANALYSIS: Obama’s re-election campaign expected to raise an unprecedented US$1 billion

Reuters, WASHINGTON

US President Barack Obama is no longer the outsider candidate who fueled his bid for the White House in 2008 with a flood of small donations from new and young voters inspired by his message of hope and change.

As a sitting president he has far greater authority and media access and his re-election campaign next year is expected to raise US$1 billion, which is unprecedented in US politics.

“In 2008, he was very much an insurgent candidate, somebody from out of nowhere with a wholly different story and the Obama campaign was as much a crusade as it was a traditional campaign for president,” said Christopher Arterton, a professor of political management at George Washington University who has also been a Democratic consultant.

With early polls showing Obama leading potential Republican rivals, he announced yesterday that he was running for re-election and that he would file campaign papers with the Federal Election Commission this week.

That would allow him to start campaign fund-raising and much of his war chest is expected to come from the kind of big-money donations he has criticized in the past.

This time, the former Illinois senator is no longer the fresh political face seeking to become the first black US president. His campaign next year will be a bigger, slicker machine, likely to dwarf that of his eventual Republican opponent.

Aides note the huge number of individual donors who gave to Obama’s campaign — a record 4 million — but only 25 percent of the money came from small donors who gave US$200 or less, according to the non-partisan Campaign Finance Institute (CFI) in Washington.

Obama will inevitably lose many of the individual donors who backed him four years ago, said Anthony Corrado, a professor of government at Colby College and an expert on campaign fund-raising.

“That’s something that we’re not going to see this time around, that level of excitement about the Obama candidacy that we saw last time, from people who are not traditional donors or traditional Democratic primary voters,” he said.

Obama amassed a record US$750 million as he surged to victory in 2008. His campaign total next year is expected to hit US$1 billion or more, even without a major Democratic primary opponent or the emergence of a strong Republican contender.

“It’s definitely within reach, as he raised three quarters of a billion last time. As the incumbent president, it’s quite plausible to imagine him raising US$1 billion,” CFI executive director Michael Malbin said.

Jim Messina, a former White House deputy chief of staff who will run Obama’s campaign, has been telling big supporters they will need to collect US$350,000 each. His campaign headquarters will be in Chicago and it will be staffed with White House veterans.

Obama made his message clear on Tuesday last week at a US$30,800-plate fund-raiser at a popular New York restaurant.

“I could not do what I do ... if I didn’t know that I had a lot of people out there rooting for me and a lot of friends supporting me,” Obama told donors at the dinner, which raised US$1.5 million for the Democratic National Committee.

Although he has received a boost from the recovering economy, Obama’s approval ratings could easily fall if the Libya war drags on and gas prices stay high, or if voters blame him for the huge US budget deficit.

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