Your Voters Determine Your Fundraising Method

by Josh Patashnik | February 7, 2008

Ezra Klein says:

Over the course of this election, Obama's model of high volume, low dollar contributions has been proved decisively superior to [Terry McAuliffe's] model of low volume, high dollar contributions [for the Clinton campaign]. Over the past 24 hours, for instance, the Obama campaign pulled in nearly $6 million. That's simply impossible to do by calling rich people. You can't call that many rich people fast enough. And this lesson is, by far, the most revolutionary and important facet of the Obama campaign. The fact that they've proven small donor democracy not only viable, but operationally preferable, has the potential to completely change the way campaigns are run, and do so much for the better.

This is right as far as it goes, but it doesn't go very far. Obama isn't following his high-volume, low-dollar model because he decided that that would be the best way to raise money, while Clinton decided the reverse. Rather, Obama's been so successful with his fundraising model mostly because the type of people who support him--namely, well-educated liberals who are affluent but not spectacularly wealthy--are the type of people generally inclined to give $100 or $200 to a candidate who inspires them. If a candidate as objectively mediocre as Howard Dean could do it, that suggests to me that doing well using this model isn't actually that difficult, once you win the hearts of wine-track Democrats. (Though a candidate as strong as Obama can take it to a much higher level.)

Similarly, Hillary raised money in the way she did (by shaking down a whole bunch of rich friends) because her blue-collar supporters aren't the type of people who make a ton of small donations. This is why the next month or so will be interesting for her, money-wise: she's already maxed out most of her big donor base, so it'll be interesting to see whether she's solidified enough support among upper-middle-class Democrats to pivot to that fundraising model. So far, it looks like she's doing pretty well--though not Obama territory, mind you.

Obviously, the ideal would be to have plenty of blue-collar support at the ballot box and enough latt

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