Big Obama donors missing in action

Barack Obama's raised just half of what he got from big donors at this point in his election campaign four years ago. Here, a campaign poster lies amongst broken glass after Obama's West Los Angeles campaign office was vandalized on September 22, 2011 in Los Angeles, Calif.

Jeremy Hobson: It's Primary Day in Illinois, and in the Republican Presidential Race the polls indicate Mitt Romney holds a lead there over Rick Santorum. While those candidates duke it out, President Obama has been able to concentrate on raising campaign cash for the general election.

So far he's outraised all the GOP contenders, but the President has been lagging in attracting money from wealthy contributors. Washington Bureau Chief John Dimsdale reports.


John Dimsdale: Nearly a million and a half Americans have contributed to the Obama campaign, some as little as $2. But according to the Washington Post, only 11,000 have given $2,000 or more. That’s less than half the number of big donations to Obama at this point in the last election.

Jack Pitney: Well, in 2008, Barack Obama promised a banquet. And in the past couple years, wealthy contributors have learned they’re going to get stuck with the check.

Claremont McKenna College professor Jack Pitney says the Obama administration has alienated his well-heeled supporters.

Jack Pitney: They see the president making attacks on Wall Street, Democrats talking about tax increases on the wealthy and potential contributors see their interests are at stake and could be hurt by the president’s re-election. 

But there may be another reason big dollars are going elsewhere this year. Jessica Taylor is an election analyst with the Rothenberg Political Report. 

Jessica Taylor: We have seen many different venues and outlets for people to give money this campaign cycle than we did four years ago. And I think you will see people give to super PACs, where there are less limits on how much they can give. 

That doesn’t explain why more fat-cat donors have written checks to Republican front-runner Mitt Romney than to Barack Obama so far. Bill Schneider with the moderate Democratic think tank Third Way says Obama’s wealthy supporters have lost their enthusiasm.

Bill Schneider: They support what he’s done, but they’re disappointed the economic recovery has been so slow. And also, the anger and fear they felt toward the Bush administration are not at this point as intense as they were in 2008, particularly after the financial collapse.

Schneider expects that what he calls “rich liberals” will regain their passion and start giving when they realize Republicans have a shot at winning back both the Senate and the White House this November.

In Washington, I'm John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

About the author

As head of Marketplace’s Washington, D.C. bureau, John Dimsdale provides insightful commentary on the intersection of government and money for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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