The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Obama Campaign Fundraising Claim Deserves More Than a Few Grains of Salt

Posted on | September 10, 2012 | 14 Comments

August was not yet over when word got around during the Republican convention in Tampa that Romney and the GOP had raised more than $100 million in August — their third consecutive month of nine-digit fundraising. The Democrats had nothing to say in reply at that time. You could hear the crickets chirping at Obama HQ in Chicago.

OK, so overnight the Romney campaign announced a specific figure — $111.6 million — for August and immediately the Democrats answered with the claim that they’d raised $114 million, resulting in a blitz of headlines like this:

Obama beats Romney
in August fundraising

Washington Post

Obama fundraising edges
out Romney in August

CBS News

This news contributes to the sense of a shift toward Obama, but permit me to offer an important caveat: We won’t get the official Federal Election Commission reports for another 10 days, and the official numbers on those reports may add up to different totals than those announced by the two campaigns. There isn’t any law that requires campaigns to tell the truth in their public statements about fundraising, and if you think Democrats wouldn’t fudge the numbers in order to gain a 10-day advantage in the media narrative of the campaign, you have a far higher estimate of Democrat probity than I do.

Be that as it may, however, even if we take the total fundraising numbers at face value, there remains the question of “burn rate.”

Ever since May, we’ve seen the Democrats burning through campaign cash faster than they can bring it in. The Obama campaign has built a very expensive infrastructure, with high fixed costs for staff salaries, and they launched an early ad blitz this summer in key swing states, at a time when the Romney campaign was hoarding its resources in preparation for the fall season. Ed Morrissey at Hot Air calls our attention to this detail from a Politico reporter:

Romney’s campaign, including the RNC and state parties it raises money through, have about $168.5 million cash on hand. The Obama camp has not announced how much they have.

Right. Some readers may remember how angry I got toward the Gingrich campaign in March, when Newt was acting like he was still Mitt’s chief GOP rival at a time when it was obvious to me — and to any experienced observer — that his campaign’s burn rate was out of control and that they were running up huge debts with no chance to win, thereby hurting Santorum’s chance to stop Romney.

Manipulating perceptions is part of the game in politics, largely because so many people are swayed by bandwagon psychology and susceptible to confirmation bias, believing what they want to believe. If you aren’t braced to expect these manipulations, you can be misled. This was why the Romney campaign felt obliged to issue a warning against panic in the face of the post-convention media blitz suggesting that Obama’s already won the election. And this was also why I felt the need to remind readers of a campaign that faced an even worse blitz of slanted media coverage:

Sixty-four days remain in the 2012 presidential campaign. Election Day is nine weeks from tomorrow, both party conventions are now in the rearview mirror, and Mitt Romney’s uphill battle to unseat President Obama has reached its most crucial phase. Everything that happened before today was merely prelude to this, the heart of the fall campaign season, and no “expert” can confidently predict today what the final result will be on November 6.
These basic facts are important to establish at the outset of any discussion of the current state of the race, because there are many influential people who would like you to believe that the outcome of the election has somehow already been determined, and that they have clairvoyant insight on what that outcome will be. But why bring Nate Silver into this?
Silver is the poll-analyzing guru of the New York Times, whose reputation as a wizard was developed in crunching baseball statistics before being applied to political campaigns. On Saturday afternoon, Silver published an analysis which asserted that Obama now has a nearly 80 percent chance of winning the election, with 317 Electoral College votes and 52 percent of the popular vote. All of which is very interesting — and very important, if true.
However, baseball isn’t politics, and public-opinion polls are not batting averages or on-base percentages or any other such metric of past performance. Readers of Michael Lewis’s bestseller Moneyball may appreciate this distinction, especially if they have any extensive experience in following polls and election campaigns. For myself, to cite just one example, I recall the Sunday in October 2010 when I arrived in New York’s 25th Congressional District and was greeted by a Syracuse Post-Standard headline proclaiming that Democrat Rep. Dan Maffei had opened up a 12-point lead over Republican challenger Ann Marie Buerkle with barely two weeks remaining until Election Day. There was a mood of grim determination at the Buerkle campaign events I attended that Sunday and Monday, and I was far from certain that she could pull off an upset. On Election Night, the vote was “too close to call” and it was only after an extended recount that Buerkle was declared the winner — two days before Thanksgiving — by a margin of fewer than 600 votes. . . .

Please read the whole thing at The American Spectator.




  • Finrod Felagund

    I remember you going on and on (and on and on and on) about Gingrich’s fundraising back in March. You inspired me to give money to a political campaign for the first time in my life.

    Now it’s your fault that the RNC keeps calling my cellphone, damn you.

  • Evi L. Bloggerlady

    Wouldn’t it be just karma for Obama to over inflate his actual numbers and manage to depress Democrats from giving more and spurring conservatives instead to give to Romney.

  • Evi L. Bloggerlady

    Embrace the suck and go ahead and give to Romney. If that sucks too much, imagine you are giving to Ryan.

  • Wombat_socho

    It would show the same amount of competency he’s applied to his Presidency.

  • ckreutzberg

    AllahP and Ace are getting their last little chubbys over this, let’s not spoil the last hope of the betas.

  • Tlaloc

    ‘ I recall the Sunday in October 2010 when I arrived in New York’s 25th Congressional District and was greeted by a Syracuse Post-Standard headline
    proclaiming that Democrat Rep. Dan Maffei had opened up a 12-point lead
    over Republican challenger Ann Marie Buerkle with barely two weeks
    remaining until Election Day.”

    Really? You’re going to try and claim all polling is bogus because of one bad poll in a local race? Cause that’d be asinine.

    More frequently polled questions get better and better approximations of the actual state of things. So while the podunk congressional district may very well have been far too tenuously polled to give a real sense of what is happening the same is categorically not true of the presidential race.

  • JeffS

    Way to cherry pick, Tlaloc. Blatantly and arrogantly, pulling it straight from Stacy’s post.

    See, you omitted the first part of the sentence, which was: “For myself, to cite just one example,…..

    Which changes the meaning completely. I’m sure you’ll disagree with that, trolls never admit to error, but it’s the truth.

    What? What if you aren’t a troll? Then you need to improve your reading skills.

  • Tlaloc

    FYI 2010 NY-25 had a grand total of 2 data points:

    Two surveys, taken two months apart, by two different polling houses. Each survey was only a few hundred people.

    By comparison the presidential race this year has at least 239 polls done, most of which are in the high hundreds to low thousands of responses and of course not all are from different outfits and thus house effects can be calculated and accounted for. With ha much data it is quite possible to recognize outliers.

  • Anamika

    Its Stacy who cherry picked a flawed example; as cited by Tlaloc, there is a big difference between a scarcely polled local race, like the the one cited by Stacy, and a heavily polled presidential race. If you read 538 blog, you would know that Nate Silver wrote extensively on the unreliability of such polls. As such he also points out the fact that polling for presidential elections tend to be more reliable than those for midterms.

  • Adjoran

    Silver was ahead of the pack in calling the 2006 & 2008 campaigns, and earned himself the rep and NYT gig. I don’t recall his analysis ever being particularly accurate months out other than in those two elections.

    Frankly, I’m glad to see his claim of 81% chance of an Obama win, because it’s going to correct the outsized rep he’s made.

  • Anamika


    I don’t recall his analysis ever being particularly accurate months out other than in those two elections.

    Silver did not do 2006*. Goes to show that you are particularly not good at recollecting past events accurately.

    *Perhaps you were conflating the 2008 primaries with ’06 midterms.

  • Bob Belvedere

    That’s our Adj: always looking on the bright side!

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