Democrats Building Lead in Fundraising

The Wall Street Journal published an article yesterday that validated something we’ve been predicting would happen for a number of months now. According to their research, Democratic campaign in aggregate are now enjoying a $100 million advantage in fundraising.

With more than a year to go before the 2008 elections, Democratic
candidates have raised $100 million more in campaign contributions than
Republicans, putting them on track to win the money race for the White
House and Congress for the first time since the government began
detailed accounting of campaign fund raising three decades ago.

The total raised to date is quite astounding, with the leading financial contenders for president on the Democratic side raising more funds already than all of the Democratic primary candidates did combined for the totality of the race in 2003-2004. Not only could 2008 be a billion dollar election but quite possibly double or triple that. But where will all that increase in funds come from?

If their fund-raising advantage continues — so far, Democrats have
been pulling in about 58% of overall donations to federal-office
seekers — they will have more resources for pricey advertising,
organization building and voter outreach next November to buttress
their edge in the polls. Moreover, Democrats’ focus on small donors
leaves them room to raise more cash over the next year, since many
contributors have yet to hit the legal limit of $2,300 per candidate
per election, and could potentially keep giving.

While this cycle will see more donors that give the maximum allowed to federal campaigns, we are seeing an explosion of new donors buying into the political process at smaller levels- each with the capacity to give more throughout the cycle. During the last fundraising quarter, we reported that the average contribution size to all candidates through ActBlue was right at $100 and that the median size was $45. We’ll see those lower end donors continue to give through the cycle. The WSJ highlights this very point with their own research.

Only half of Mr. Obama’s donors have hit the giving
limit for the primaries; about a quarter have given him less than $200,
according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group
that analyzes campaign contributions.

By contrast, about two-thirds of those contributing to
the campaign of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani have already hit
their maximum; just 8% have given less than $200.

For comparison, I ran the numbers for a sample of about 40 major federal campaigns that used ActBlue to collect their online contributions in Q2 and found that on average, 22% of the funds raise in the quarter were online contributions. In a couple of cases the online percentage went over 50%.

Another important point is the increasing percentage of online giving as a share of campaign fundraising.

Democrats have also benefited because of their
comparative strength with Internet activists. While Republican voters
tend to gravitate toward traditional media like talk radio, Democratic
voters with strong opinions are more likely to go online to read blogs.
That, in turn, has led to an explosion in online giving to Democrats,
who are building lists of thousands of small-dollar donors for a
fraction of the cost of traditional direct mail.

Many Democrats give by clicking links to candidates on
the Web site ActBlue, a clearinghouse for small donors. ActBlue has
raised $5.6 million for Democratic House, Senate and presidential
candidates, according to PoliticalMoneyLine, a Web site that tracks
donations. It was the single biggest source of contributions to the
party’s presidential candidates during the first six months of the
year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. In a report last
week, the center said ActBlue donors gave more in aggregate than the
total from employees of heavy corporate contributors like Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

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