It truly sounds like that many of Barack Obama’s 2008 donors have gone from “hope and change” to giving up any hope about significant change. And that should make Mitt Romney & Co. smile in the vital fund-raising war. Buzzfeed’s Ben Smith has this eye-opening report that finds that nearly 90 percent of the people who donated to Obama in 2008 haven’t donated yet this year.
And many seem disillusioned and disappointed:
In 2008, more than 550,000 gave more than $200 to Barack Obama, entering their names in the longest list of individual donors ever seen in American politics.
That list was a snapshot of the hope Obama inspired in a cross sections of liberals, young professionals, African-Americans, and Democrats who saw in him a generational and historic moment. But now, as Obama struggles to keep pace with his 2008 fundraising clip, that list offers a cross-section of Democratic disappointment and alienation. According to a BuzzFeed analysis of campaign finance data, 88% of the people who gave $200 or more in 2008 — 537,806 people — have not yet given that sum this year. And this drop-off isn’t simply an artifact of timing. A full 87% of the people who gave $200 — the sum that triggers an itemized report to the Federal Elections Commission — through April of 2008, 182,078 people, had not contributed by the end of last month.
Interviews with dozens of those drop-off donors reveal the stories of Democrats who still plan to pull the lever for the president, but whose support has gone from fervent to lukewarm, or whose economic circumstances have left them without money to spare. The interviews and the data are the substance of an “enthusiasm gap” spurred by the distance between the promise of the campaign and the reality of governing, one that has begun to deepen Democratic gloom about this November’s election.
I’ve long contended that Democrats, much moreso that Republicans, are willing to walk away from their own party if they don’t get what they wanted. And then they complain about the conservative Supreme Court, how dominant Republicans are in Congress, and claim the news media is complacent and part to blame.
“Where’s the change I can believe in?” asked Lisa Pike, a 55-year-old from Williamsburg, Va. with a small medical transcription business who gave $658 in 2008. She said she is not planning on contributing this time around. “I wish he was the socialist they accused him of being. I wish we had the tons of change that would justify the right freaking out. I wish him well — I don’t dislike him personally — but I’m disappointed that he’s not the change-agent I had hoped for.”
This is a valid viewpoint. But, again, if the GOP wins the White House and Congress in 2012 then there shouldn’t be any complaint if the party’s agenda and Supreme Court choices sail in. In short: Democrats seem less capable of keeping the long view in sight.
And Team Obama has (of course) an answer to this:
An Obama campaign spokeswoman, Katie Hogan, disputed BuzzFeed’s analysis with the statistics, noting that 98% of its donors have given less than the $200 threshold this year and that the campaign is ahead of its 2008 pace. But Obama is now operating with the technical advantages of a permanent campaign, including history’s largest email list, and the political advantages of incumbency, which traditionally draws business interests and favor-seekers to the candidate. Aides have long anticipated that muscle and technical prowess, combined with fear of a Republican takeover, will replace inspiration in keeping the campaign fundraising on track.
The spin goes on.
But not donations from many Democrats who gave in 2008.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.