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Is Obama Having Fundraising Problems ?

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Back in June when Barack Obama announced that he was opting out of the public campaign financing system, it seemed like a smart move. After all, he was pulling in tens of millions of dollars even as early as the second quarter of 2007, raised $ 32 million in January 2008, pulled in an astounding $ 55 million in February, had $ 42 million in the bank in April, and then pulled in another $ 32 million by the time April was over. When he decided to opt-out of the public financing, there was some thought that Obama had the potential to raise as much as $ 300 million for the General Election.

Now, it seems, that the rise of the McCain/Palin ticket, combined with what seems to be diminished enthusiasm on the Demcoratic side, it looks like the Obama campaign is finding raising the money needed to run a General Election campaign without relying on public matching funds to be a more difficult job than they anticipated:

After months of record-breaking fund-raising, a new sense of urgency in Senator Barack Obama’s fund-raising team is palpable as the full weight of the campaign’s decision to bypass public financing for the general election is suddenly upon it.

Pushing a fund-raiser later this month, a finance staff member sent a sharply worded note last week to Illinois members of its national finance committee, calling their recent efforts “extremely anemic.”

At a convention-week meeting in Denver of the campaign’s top fund-raisers, buttons with the image of a money tree were distributed to those who had already contributed the maximum $2,300 to the general election, a subtle reminder to those who had failed to ante up.

The signs of concern have become evident in recent weeks as early fund-raising totals have suggested that Mr. Obama’s decision to bypass public financing may not necessarily afford him the commanding financing advantage over Senator John McCain that many had originally predicted.

(…)

the campaign is struggling to meet ambitious fund-raising goals it set for the campaign and the party. It collected in June and July far less from Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s donors than originally projected. Moreover, Mr. McCain, unlike Mr. Obama, will have the luxury of concentrating almost entirely on campaigning instead of raising money, as Mr. Obama must do.

The Obama campaign does not have to report its August fund-raising totals until next week, so it is difficult to tally what it has in the bank at this point. A spokesman said that August was its best fund-raising month yet and that the campaign’s fund-raising was on track. But the campaign finished July with slightly less cash on hand with the Democratic National Committee compared with Mr. McCain and the R.N.C. The Obama campaign has also been spending heavily, including several million more than the McCain campaign in advertising in August.

(…)

The Obama campaign set a goal in mid-June of raising $300 million for the campaign and about $150 million for the Democratic Party over four-and-a-half months, fund-raisers said. As of the end of July, however, the Obama campaign was well short of the $100 million a month pace it had set, taking in about $77 million between the campaign and the party that month.

It is not yet clear whether the Obama campaign will be able to ratchet up its fund-raising enough in the final two months of the campaign to make up the difference.

Even Mr. Obama’s fund-raisers in Illinois were admonished in an e-mail message last Thursday to step up their efforts to “show the other regions that his home state still has it.” The donors, who were also reminded they had each promised to collect $300,000 for the campaign, were asked to raise $25,000 each for an event on Sept. 22 at a Chicago museum.

If these reports end up being true, and given the fact that the Republican base has clearly been energized by the selection of Sarah Palin as the Vice-Presidential nominee, then Barack Obama’s decision to opt-out of public financing may not give him the advantage he thought it would.

Cross-posted at Below The Beltway