The Obama campaign is changing its approach on the role Democratic outside groups play in the presidential campaign, softening its quiet but firm opposition to the funding of such efforts.
The news, which was reported by the Huffington Post several weeks ago and followed up by Marc Ambinder today, seems driven by the realization that the McCain campaign and the RNC may have too much financial support to take on alone.
But if Obama is, in fact, releasing "the cavalry" (as one campaign aide phrased it to Ambinder), it may already be too late.
Several individuals associated with these outside efforts say that, two months until the election, there is little time to mobilize an effective advertisement campaign. The money, it should be noted, is not an obstacle. Rather, the issue is one of will power.
"If you're asking whether billionaires could write checks, the answer is, of course, yes," said Tom Matzzie, a Democratic operative who now heads the group Accountable America. "If you're asking whether they have the guts to take the heat that comes with writing a check, the answer is, sadly, no for the most part."
Added Jon Soltz of VoteVets.org: "Its still tough for the donors. Many don't want disclosure... It's possible [that the big donors are out there, waiting to give]. I was in meeting last week about it. But there are concerns."
Within Democratic circles, there has been an open debate as to the impact and soundness of Obama's policy in regards to the outside groups. The campaign insisted that a centralized communication effort would be the most effective. But they have watched as Republican 527 and 501c4 groups have sprung to life, launching character attacks against the Illinois Democrat.
A Democratic media counterpunch along these lines seems unlikely at this point in time. As Matzzie noted, it is tough to start an ad campaign from scratch. But on-the-ground efforts, including voter mobilization and registration, could be bolstered with more cash.
Unions such as SEIU, AFSCME, and AFL-CIO, for instance, are likely to field more effective mobilization drives.
Even if these outside groups were suddenly flush with financial resources, they would be restricted in what they could accomplish. VoteVets, for example, is a 501c4 and, as such, is limited in the amount of "express advocacy" it can launch in the campaign's closing weeks.
"You cant just make a c4 and get them in the fight because we are real group," said Soltz. "Now we can run ads but it has to be issues advocacy, or I can't mention a candidate's name. That I can do, but it won't hit as hard."