When Barack Obama and his campaign made the decision to forgo public financing and the $84 million that comes with it, it was with the expectation that they could continue -- and even improve upon -- their already record-breaking fundraising efforts. In fact, they relied upon that assumption; it was the only way to gain a real financial advantage over rival John McCain, who did accept public funds. But an article in Tuesday's New York Times suggests that the Obama camp has been coming up short, and is concerned.
Publicly, Obama people remain confident. But, the Times says, "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."
The campaign also has the Democratic National Committee holding it back. The DNC's Republican counterpart has been running a successful fundraising operation, and the DNC's effort is lackluster by comparison. As the Times notes, at the end of July the combination of the Obama campaign and the DNC had less cash on hand than the combination of the McCain campaign and the RNC.
Democrats still say there's good reason for Obama to have passed up the public money. Tad Devine, who worked on John Kerry's 2004 run, says Kerry's decision to take the funding was the campaign's single biggest mistake. "It's not just the limitation of dollars when you accept public financing, it's the limitations that go with that spending," Devine told the Times. But there's one other factor to consider -- Obama has to devote a substantial chunk of his time to fundraising, time he could otherwise spend campaigning.