How Obama Won: It’s the Money

As the song says…


No campaign can succeed without it. Money helps build organization. Money helps buy ads that will introduce you to the country when you are an unknown. Remember, Obama needed lots of money to do both, after all, Hillary Clinton had racked up the ‘ Establishment’ in many states before Obama even got started well in the race, and he was an unknown outside of those of us in Illinois and political junkies from across the country.

When this campaign began, and Hillary Clinton REFUSED to take matching public funds, what was the point of it?


Skeptical Brotha spelled it out in February 2007:

Barack Obama, following the Borq Queen’s lead, has opted out of the Presidential Campaign Finance system. The money chase has begun in earnest and in order to keep up, he’s got to play the game by her rules. This is a high stakes game that could cost upwards of half a billion dollars. Ain’t but three players invited to this table : Hillary, Edwards, and now Obama. The community of fundraisers that inevitably ends up financing and choosing our Presidents is being courted heavily by the Borg Queen. Most have been assimilated into the Clinton collective and will beat the bushes for her. After all, resistance is futile.

Obama’s apparatus is a little slow on the uptake. Most of the folk Hillary is attempting to assimilate have already been softened up for her in advance or have already assisted her or her husbands campaigns in the past. She effectively froze them in place until she emerged from her cocoon of inevitability. Hillary’s public goal for 07′ is $75 million. Trust and believe that she intends to raise over $100 million to get the ball rolling.

Remember y’all, the Borg Queen has learned from the master how to kill an opponent softly in the smoke filled rooms and salon’s of the rich and powerful. Bill’s prowess was a thing of legend in Arkansas. Nobody ever had a chance. You see, Arkansas is a small state ruled with an iron fist by a tight knit oligarchy. Nobody catered to them better than Bill. The care and feeding of the rich and powerful is a necessary skill for anybody who wants to play in this league. Hillary has the best education possible, having been involved in 4 national campaigns, there is no ego she can’t tame and soothe to reach her goal.

Then, the numbers came in for the First Quarter. They were dropped by Camp Clinton first on Drudge – the $36 million. Of course, you soon found out that $10 million of that was from her Senate Campaign and could not be used until the General Election.

The wait began.

And, then the drop. The lightweight. The Freshman Senator who could make a speech had raised $25 million from 100,000 donors.

STUNNED is the word.

The political ‘ Establishment’ just couldn’t believe what had just happened. I remember laughing as I watched Joe Scarborough make it through the announcement. Bob Schaffer on Face the Nation didn’t beat around the bush, he said it right out – he didn’t take Obama seriously until these numbers came in. It was the first crack of the ‘ Inevitable’ candidate.

By the Second Quarter, Obama had raised $58 million from 250,000 donors, and people still didn’t believe he could keep up with the Clinton Machine.

By October, it was becoming clear how Obama’s plan for getting money from lots of small donors was shaping his fundraising. Though his 20 million was less than Clinton’s take for the third quarter, he still was signing up donors.

In the Fourth Quarter, Obama raised $23.5 million, and by the end of the year, going into the Iowa Caucus, he was trailing Hillary Clinton in Cash-on-Hand, $14.4 million to Clinton’s $18.3 million.

Obama had kept pace with the Clinton Fundraising Machine all year, and had used his money wisely, having to spend more than her on television and basic organizing, because he was introducing himself to the country. His ability to raise money on the internet was a story, but not really a story.

It was sort of clear that he was raising money through his donors, but small amounts, but it didn’t have that PUNCH. That draw dropping punch until post-Iowa Caucus,

When Barack Obama raised 32 million in the MONTH of January. That’s over 1 million dollars a day. AND Hillary Clinton, who had led Obama by the end of December 2007 in fundraising, had to loan her campaign $5 million.

In February 2008, when Obama hit the One Million Donor Mark, and raised more than $6 million in the 24 hours post SuperTuesday. And, a total of $55 million for February.

It was now that Obama was getting it from all sides, and the full extent of what Obama was attempting to do could be explained in these posts from February:

How Obama Is Threatening People’s Money And Why It’s Important For Democracy

Why The War On Obama

In attempting to rewrite how campaigns were financed, there was an entire ‘ Status Quo’ that was threatened – by the left AND the right. If Obama succeeded, then he had set in place a model for which future insurgent candidates could follow. For people used to getting their way, he had to be stopped.

Obama’s fundraising ability – through the internet, which Howard Dean had pioneered in 2004, but Obama took to new unimaginable heights in 2008, will be studied for years to come. When he was going through the worst of times, still being able to out fundraise his opponents, was a way of keeping the vultures at bay, and stopping the bleeding.

Obama’s Fundraising, Post Super Tuesday, helped him in several ways:
1. By being able to fundraise WITHOUT taking time off the campaign trail to do so.
2. By not tapping out his small donors, he could go back to them time and time again.
3. The money allowed Obama to be able to complete his 50 State Strategy at a pace that Clinton just could not match.
4. I believe now, post Pennsylvania, Obama used the time in Pennsylvania, and his fundraising abilities, to bankrupt Hillary Clinton. She didn’t match Obama in dollars spent, but by him fighting her so hard in Pennsylvania, she had to pour pretty much every dime she didn’t have into winning the state. Though she won Pennsylvania, Obama bankrupted her, and the calendar post-Pennsylvania, wasn’t forgiving. She could never catch her fundraising breath to accompany the necessary campaigning schedule.

By the time this ended in June, Hillary Clinton’s campaign was $30 million dollars in the red; Obama’s was $46 million in the black, and he had raised over $250 million from over 1.5 million individual donors, 47% of them from individuals giving $200 or less.

Obama rewrote all fundraising ‘conventional wisdoms’.

If you want an overview on Obama’s vision, and how this is another way he outsmarted Camp Clinton, a must-read is the Atlantic Monthly’s Piece on Obama’s Money Making Machine. Obama understood that Silicon Valley wasn’t just a place for getting money, but ideas.

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