Here are a few simple facts to put the breathtaking pace of presidential campaign fundraising for the 2008 election into perspective. These emerge from the Campaign Finance Institute's overnight analysis of the candidates' monthly reports filed with the Federal Election Commission on March 20.
- Unprecedented Fundraising in February and Overall: Barack Obama raised more money during the single month of February 2008 than any previous presidential candidate save one (George W. Bush) had ever raised during the entire primary election cycle through February of the election year. Obama also raised more in the single month of February than Bush did in his best three-month quarter for the 2004 race. With competitive contests in both parties and the continuing demise of the presidential public financing system, Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani and John McCain all raised more during the 14 month primary period than anyone had previously, except Bush.
- Small Donors Were a Big Deal in February – Especially for Democrats: For the first time during the primaries, more than half of Obama's and Clinton's February money came in small amounts of $200 or less. Clinton's $17.2 million was more than had ever come from small donors during a single month (Table 1), except for John Kerry's $17.3 million during the month of the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Even so, Clinton's total was well below Obama's $30.5 million small donor total in February. While Democrats raised a total of $47.7 million from small donors in that month, Republicans tapped this group for only $5.1 million.
- Small Donors Are Playing a Major Role in the Competition Among Candidates and Across Parties: Thus far in the primary cycle, Obama has raised $43.1 million more in small contributions than Clinton. This accounts for most of his $55.2 million edge in individual contributions. And Democratic candidates have raised $58.4 million more than Republicans in small amounts, accounting for nearly half of the Republicans' $130.2 million disadvantage in individual contributions. (Table 2)
- Small Donors Are Often Repeat Donors: One important fact about small donors is that they are available for repeat contributions. In the month of February alone, for example, Obama received nearly $5 million from repeat donors who gave 112,620 individual small contributions (less than $200) that were itemized only because the donor had crossed the $200 aggregate contribution threshold for disclosure. (These 112,620 contributions represent nearly 70% of the number of his 162,098 itemized contributions in February.) Clinton received $4.3 million in 61,731 contributions of the same description. (These represent 65% of her 95,175 itemized contributions in February.) We have no way to know how many multiple donors have not yet triggered the $200 disclosure threshold, or how many may do so in coming months. This may signify a new awakening of a donor group that, for want of a better label, might be thought of as a lower-middle group. Whatever the label, these donors have not been very visible before. In past years, most donors have given cumulatively either less than $200 or more than $1,000, with few in the middle.
- Large Donors Remain Important: Finally, large donors remain significant factors, although proportionally less so in February for Democrats. Obama raised $11.8 million in amounts of $1,000 or more, Clinton $8.4 million and McCain $7 million. In McCain's case, these contributions still made up 67% of total funds raised in February, compared to 22% for Obama and 25% for Clinton. Overall, large donations of $1,000 or more have supplied more than half of the money raised by the presidential candidates over the course of the full primary season (50% for the Democrats and 58% for Republicans). (Table 1)
Table 1: Presidential Candidates Fundraising Activity in February 2008
Table 2: Presidential Candidates Fundraising Activity Jan. 1, 2007 - Feb. 29, 2008
Table 3: Presidential Candidates Primary Money Raised and Spent through February 29, 2008