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Obama's 2008 Presidential Campaign Donors Not Giving Early On In Reelection Race

Barack Obama Campaign Donors

JACK GILLUM   10/28/11 02:06 PM ET   AP

WASHINGTON — Tens of thousands of people who together gave millions of dollars to Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign have gone missing this time around. Their failure to give so far may signal that some of the president's earliest supporters have lost enthusiasm.

At the same time, Republican rivals like former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney have been gaining financial strength in parts of the country that were instrumental in swinging the last election for Obama, according to an Associated Press analysis of new campaign finance data.

The president's re-election effort is hardly hurting for cash: His campaign and the Democratic Party raised more than $70 million combined since July, outstripping all Republicans combined by millions. But some supporters who wrote Obama larger checks early in the 2008 campaign haven't done so this time, representing more than $10 million in missing donations.

The AP's analysis suggests that Obama, beleaguered by a struggling economy, will have to work harder to win back party stalwarts and swing voters alike. His approval ratings have slumped to 41 percent in a recent Gallup poll, as steadfast supporters have found themselves less able or less willing to open their wallets again.

"He was our state senator, and when I looked at the Republican side, I thought, `We need some fresh blood in the campaign,'" said Janet Tavakoli, 58, a financial analyst from Chicago who gave $1,000 to Obama in 2008. "But I was dead wrong about it," she said, and isn't supporting any candidate this time.

Obama is running unchallenged this primary season, so potential donors might not feel a sense of urgency. But early donors tend to give again, and larger donations are the strongest signs of enthusiasm – something Obama enjoyed four years ago – as Romney picked up cash in swing states.

Obama also missed support from early donors from places in Illinois, Michigan and Texas he narrowly won in 2008. At the same time, Romney raised more than $1 million from those same areas, mostly from Houston donors; he also gained support from solid-leaning Obama districts in Southern California, Florida and New England. Overall, Obama lost Texas but handily won Michigan and Illinois.

"I have little discretionary money, and I just have to take care of myself," said Roger Hodges, 45, an urban designer in Richmond, Calif. Hodges gave Obama $250 four years ago but doesn't plan on donating in this election, adding that his friends in the liberal-leaning San Francisco Bay Area have become disappointed with Obama.

The Obama campaign said almost all of its donors this year have given $200 or less. Yet nearly 40 percent of Obama's fundraising coffers since April have been filled with donations larger than that, compared with 76 percent during the same period four years ago when Obama faced Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic nomination.

For its analysis, the AP compared the names and addresses of Obama contributors who gave between $200 and $2,500 from April to September 2007 with those who gave amounts in the same range during the same period this year. The AP adjusted its analysis to compensate for contributors who might have moved or listed a slightly different name.

Records also show a handful of Obama contributors from 2008 donated to Romney this time; none appeared to give to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, another leading GOP candidate.

Lynda Marren, 48, of Hillsdale, Calif., usually supports Republican politicians, but she paid $500 to hear Obama speak four years ago. "I wasn't persuaded then, and still am not," she said, and gave $1,000 to Romney last June.

Many Obama supporters said they will vote for his re-election even if they don't write big checks. About 4 out of 5 of those who voted for the president in 2008 say they are likely to do so again, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

But Obama's contributions this recent fundraising quarter – absent support from the Democratic National Committee – are less than the combined cash given to all GOP candidates, hinting at an influx of money to whomever Republicans chose as their nominee. Observers have said this election likely will cost more than $1 billion.

The Obama campaign, for its part, said more than a million people have given to the president's 2012 re-election efforts, a mix of hundreds of thousands of new and returning donors that spokesman Ben LaBolt said points to "evidence of a growing organization." All told, Obama received donations from a wide swath of the United States from the Plains, the Midwest and parts of the South since April, the AP's analysis found.

Among those donors was Laurel Cappa of Washington, who gave $300 to the president four years ago and opened her wallet again this year.

"It was a birthday gift to myself," she said, having turned 70 this year, "and I expect to be giving more."

The campaign reports offer a complicated financial picture for Obama this election cycle. Recent reports show a mixed level of financial support from Wall Street, and an AP analysis earlier this month found Obama garnered continued donations from the nation's most economically hard-hit areas.

The campaign figures, however, didn't capture money raised by new, outside groups known as super political action committees, which can collect unlimited amounts of cash to influence elections. Obama and leading GOP candidates all have super PACs working in their favor, not counting groups like the GOP-leaning American Crossroads that have raised hundreds of millions ahead of the general election.

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Follow Jack Gillum at http://twitter.com/jackgillum

The slideshow below shows more details on Obama's reelection campaign:
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  • Campaign Announcement

    With a <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-VZLvVF1FQ&noredirect=1" target="_hplink">video</a> emailed and texted to supporters, President Barack Obama <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/04/barack-obama-2012-campaign_n_844221.html" target="_hplink">announced</a> he would be running for reelection on April 4, 2011. "We're doing this now because the politics we believe in does not start with expensive TV ads or extravaganzas, but with you -- with people organizing block by block, talking to neighbors, co-workers, and friends. And that kind of campaign takes time to build," the email read.

  • Fundraising

    In his 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama raised a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/04/barack-obama-to-run-money_n_844435.html" target="_hplink">staggering $750 million</a>. The president is <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/04/barack-obama-to-run-money_n_844435.html" target="_hplink">promising to hit</a> the billion dollar mark this time around, which would make him the first president in U.S. history to do so. In his 2008 bid for the White House, Obama ran a famously grassroots campaign, securing a record four million individual donors. With a disenchanted base, the grassroots efforts in his 2012 campaign have been less successful; the campaign failed to meet its goal of 20,000 small donors by the end of September 2011, <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2011/10/obama-grassroots-challenge-fails-to-meet-goal/" target="_hplink">reported ABC</a>. Many of Obama's early supporters have become disheartened with the president, and many are in worse financial shape than they were three years ago. Losing small donors, however, still leaves Obama with the corporate backers he won over in 2008. Of his <a href="http://www.opensecrets.org/pres08/contrib.php?cid=N00009638" target="_hplink">top ten donors</a>, eight were major corporations and banks, including Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase. Obama has the weight of the presidency behind him this time around. "His 2012 campaign will be a bigger, slicker machine likely to dwarf that of his eventual Republican opponent," <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/04/barack-obama-to-run-money_n_844435.html" target="_hplink">Reuters reported</a>. Successful fundraising can also help the Democratic Party win back seats in the House and Senate. From the Associated Press: <blockquote>Obama gave millions from his campaign war chest to Congressional candidates in 2008. Every seat in the House will be up for grabs again in 2012, as well as one-third of the seats in the Senate, and many experts say the battle for Congress -- particularly for the Senate -- could be the real fight.</blockquote> The president has held several fundraisers this fall, reaching out to key voting blocks like African Americans and progressives. In October the president's reelection campaign announced they surpassed 1 million donors since collections began in April. The campaign and Democratic National Committee reported a total of $70 million for the third quarter.

  • Approval Ratings

    President Obama's approval ratings hit a new low at the end of October. A <a href="http://www.gallup.com/poll/150230/Obama-Job-Approval-Average-Slides-New-Low-11th-Quarter.aspx" target="_hplink">Gallup poll</a> found Obama's approval had fallen to 41 percent, a new low and a big drop from the previous quarter rating of 46.8 percent. But despite voter frustration over high unemployment rates, <a href=" http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/24/obama-approval-rating-likability_n_979076.html." target="_hplink">Obama's likability</a> as a person has kept him afloat in the polls. Americans' approval of the president has risen and fallen over the past year: It spiked after a budget deal with Republicans was reached, after the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and of course again after Osama bin Laden was killed. The numbers dipped in August during the debt ceiling debacle. Check out HuffPost Pollster's <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/01/06/jobapproval-obama_n_726319.html" target="_hplink">interactive tool</a> tracking Obama's approval ratings through time.

  • GOP Candidates

    The current pool of candidates in the Republican primary race may be one of the best things President Obama has going for him in his re-election bid. The GOP has been hesitant to rally around any one of the contenders, and a number of high-profile Republicans decided against a run. Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has been a steady frontrunner, but hasn't garnered widespread excitement from members of his party. Instead Republicans urged New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to make a bid for the White House, and many conservatives were hopeful Sarah Palin would join the race. (Both decided not to run.) Romney has picked up key endorsements from Christie and Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran. However a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/13/republican-endorsements_n_1009352.html" target="_hplink">HuffPost analysis</a> shows that the number of GOP endorsements is much lower than is usual at this point in the race, indicating the Republican party is far from a consensus. Attendees at a Republican National Committee (RNC) meeting in May found the field of candidates "uninspiring," <a href="http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2011/05/20/gop-leaders-restless-about-2012-candidates-but-ready-to-take-on-obama/" target="_hplink">CNN reported</a>. "I am not seeing lightning striking for any of the candidates at this point," said Nevada Republican Chairman Bob List at the event. "But Republicans are eager to find the right candidate to coalesce around."

  • American Jobs Act

    President Obama announced the <a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/09/08/fact-sheet-american-jobs-act" target="_hplink">American Jobs Act </a> in September, a sweeping $447 billion bill to boost the country's sinking economy. The White House says the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/24/obama-jobs-plan_n_978956.html" target="_hplink">bill would create</a> 1.9 million new jobs -- just a fraction of the 15 million unemployed Americans. Republicans and some Democrats oppose Obama's plan to pay for the jobs bill by hiking taxes on corporations and wealthy Americans. Though many aspects of the legislation had been <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/14/obama-jobs-bill-2011-republican-support_n_1011699.html" target="_hplink">previously supported</a> by Republicans in Congress, the bill was blocked in the Senate. Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.) <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/16/debbie-wasserman--schultz-failure-economy_n_1013838.html" target="_hplink">accused the Republican Party</a> of purposefully allowing the economy to struggle in order to score political points for the 2012 elections. Obama has vowed to continue to fight to pass individual pieces of the bill, beginning with a provision to protect the jobs of teachers, firefighters and police. The Senate voted down the provision in October.

  • Mobilizing The Base

    As campaign season heats up President Obama has been reaching out to the key voting blocs the helped get him elected in 2008, such as African Americans and liberals. In September the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/25/obama-to-congressional-bl_n_979708.html" target="_hplink">president addressed</a> the Congressional Black Caucus at an annual awards dinner and called on blacks to "put on your marching shoes" to follow him into battle. "I need your help," he said. "Shake it off. Stop complainin'. Stop grumblin'. Stop cryin'. We are going to press on. We have work to do." Though Obama was speaking about the economy and his jobs bill, the undercurrent of the speech was that without African American support he might not secure a second term. Black leaders, as well as progressives generally, have been increasingly critical of Obama for giving away too much in talks with Republicans, and not doing enough to fight black unemployment, which is nearly double the national average, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/25/obama-to-congressional-bl_n_979708.html" target="_hplink">the <em>Associated Press</em> reports</a>. Obama also took a trip to the West Coast to speak to progressive Democrats, who have been growing disenchanted with the president. Hoping to reinvigorate the liberal voting bloc, Obama said during fundraisers up and down the West Coast that the GOP vision of government would "cripple America." The president's rhetoric has shifted from a spirit of compromise, to attacks on conservatives, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/25/obama-gop-cripple-america_n_980219.html" target="_hplink">reports the <em>Associated Press</em></a>.

  • First Term Accomplishments

    A run-down of the president's accomplishments and how the most controversial among them were received. <strong>Health Care Reform:</strong> The Affordable Care Act is arguably Obama's most contentious legislative accomplishment. Most Democrats praise the law for aiming to provide all Americans with access to affordable health care, while the Republican party wishes to repeal the law, saying it ups taxes and government spending, while increasing government control over health care. Some question the constitutionality of an individual mandate. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/01/supreme-court-health-care-law_n_990289.html" target="_hplink">The Supreme Court </a> will be the judge of that. The president faced the most sustained criticism from his base during the health care debate, as he <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/10/24/leaderless-senate-pushes_n_332844.html" target="_hplink">negotiated away</a> and belittled the public insurance option, and made <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/08/13/internal-memo-confirms-bi_n_258285.html" target="_hplink">back-room deals</a> with major industry players. <strong>Economic Recovery:</strong> Obama's $789 billion <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/02/11/stimulus-deal-obama-team_n_165912.html" target="_hplink">economic stimulus package</a> has faced scrutiny from Republicans since passing Congress with little Republican support. However, supporters credit the legislation -- one of the largest in history -- with pulling the economy back from the brink after the 2008 financial collapse and preventing a second Great Depression. Republicans criticized the plan for relying too heavily on spending rather than tax cuts, though a third of the package consisted of the latter. As early as February 2009, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/02/09/is-stimulus-too-small_n_165076.html" target="_hplink">HuffPost explained </a>why the stimulus was too small and would fall short of its goal. <strong>Withdrawing from Iraq:</strong> Fulfilling a campaign promise to end the war in Iraq, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/21/obama-iraq-troop-withdrawal_n_1024108.html" target="_hplink">Obama announced Oct. 21</a> that he will pull all U.S. troops out of Iraq by the end of the year. <strong>DADT Repeal:</strong> Obama repealed the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/20/barack-obama-dont-ask-dont-tell-repeal-statement_n_971662.html" target="_hplink">Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy</a> that forbid gay men and women from serving openly in the U.S. military, a law he called "discriminatory." The repeal was a historic moment for the gay rights movement. Some Republican candidates have promised to reinstate the policy. <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/30/us/politics/30ledbetter-web.html" target="_hplink">Fair Pay Act:</a> The first bill Obama signed into law is aimed at achieving equal pay for women. <strong>Stem Cell Research:</strong> Obama overturned the Bush-era ban on funding embryonic stem cell research, offering federal support for scientists researching cures for disease. <strong>New START treaty:</strong> Obama signed a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/03/jon-kyls-decadelong-obses_n_791738.html" target="_hplink">bilateral treaty </a>between the U.S. and Russia that aims to cut the number of nuclear weapons around the world in half. <a href="http://www.theatlanticwire.com/politics/2010/12/president-obama-signs-child-nutrition-act/21903/" target="_hplink"><strong>Child Nutrition Act:</strong></a> Obama signed into law a bill to combat childhood obesity and promote child nutrition in schools. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/04/obama-sign-food-safety-bill_n_804053.html" target="_hplink"><strong>Food Safety Act:</strong></a> The food safety act to help prevent deadly outbreaks of foodborne illness was the first major overhaul of America's food safety system since the 1930s. <strong>Wall Street Reform:</strong> Obama's financial industry reform bill left the major banks in tact, but promised to create a mechanism whereby failing institutions would be seized and unwound by federal regulators. That element of the law has yet to be tested. The signature achievement of the bill was the creation of the Consumer Financial Product Bureau, an agency crafted by consumer advocate and now-Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, which was fought energetically by Wall Street, the GOP and powerful Democrats. <strong>Supreme Court Justices:</strong> Obama appointed two justices to the United States Supreme Court: Justice Sonya Sotomayor in 2009, the first Latina to serve on the Supreme Court, and Justice Elena Kagan in 2010.

  • Killing Osama bin Laden And Ending The War On Terror

    In May 2011 President Obama announced that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/01/osama-bin-laden-dead-killed_n_856091.html" target="_hplink">Osama Bin Laden had been killed</a> by a U.S. operation launched in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The president said U.S. intelligence operatives received a tip of bin Laden's hideout and took action. "Justice has been done," Obama said <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNYmK19-d0U" target="_hplink">from the White House</a>. Upon taking office Obama distanced himself from the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/10/obamas-war-on-terror-awlaki_n_1004161.html" target="_hplink">"War on Terror"</a> he inherited from his predecessor George W. Bush. He ordered an end to the phrase, instead calling it a "Global Contingency Operation." Despite the name change, the assault on civil liberties that was central to Bush's "War on Terror" continues under President Obama's "operation." He pledged to bring the Iraq war to an end, and has withdrawn roughly 120,000 troops since taking office. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/21/obama-iraq-troop-withdrawal_n_1024108.html" target="_hplink">Obama announced</a> Oct. 21 that he will pull all U.S. troops out of Iraq by the end of the year, fulfilling a long-held campaign promise.

  • Budget Fights With Republicans

    The 2009 stimulus negotiations, in which Republicans got several hundred billion dollars worth of tax cuts without agreeing to vote for the bill, were a sign of things to come. Negotiations over the 2011 budget reached a climax in April, with a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/14/budget-deal-passes-house-_n_849334.html" target="_hplink">showdown</a> between Republicans and Democrats that threatened to shut down the federal government if the two parties could not reach a deal. At the eleventh hour, Congress pushed through a deal that was hailed as a <a href="http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0411/52864.html" target="_hplink">victory for Republicans</a>, because of the spending cuts Democrats agreed to. Democrats strongly opposed any <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/09/budget-battle-gop-wins-round-one_n_847101.html" target="_hplink">cuts to spending</a>. Republicans initially asked for $61 billion in cuts. Democrats later refused to go over $33 billion. The deal settled on $38.5 billion in cuts. Republicans had also tried to force social issues as part of the deal, hoping to defund Planned Parenthood and to stop government regulations on greenhouse gases, without success. However these and deeper cuts to spending are likely to be issues in the next budget fight. Months later Democrats and Republicans again went head to head over the <a href="http://motherjones.com/mojo/2011/06/whats-happening-debt-ceiling-explained" target="_hplink">raising the debt ceiling</a>. The U.S. government reached its borrowing limit - $14.3 trillion - and risked defaulting on payments if they didn't if the debt limit wasn't raised. Republicans refused to raise the limit without drastic cuts, which Democrats chastised political grandstanding that cause the country to default. Again a last-minute deal was struck in which Republicans agreed to raise the debt ceiling enough to keep borrowing through 2013 in exchange for spending cuts. A super-committee was created to come up with a plan to trim the federal budget by an additional $2.4 trillion. In September the U.S. narrowly averted a government shutdown once more over <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20112238-503544.html" target="_hplink">negotiations on a spending bill</a>. Republicans wanted to offset funding for disaster relief with cuts; Democrats refused. In the end Republicans caved on the cuts, but got Democrats to agree to give less cash to FEMA than they had wanted. The budget fight isn't over yet. In November Congress will have to figure out the rest of the 2012 federal budget. At that point the super committee created to save 1.2 trillion from the budget will reveal its plan.

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Filed by Paige Lavender  |