“Rewarding Good Behavior”

I don’t really buy Kathy’s take on Obama’s fundraising “troubles,” what I’m now calling the Markos Strategy. For one thing, while I don’t doubt the sincerity of Kathy or Markos personally, it’s sheer anecdote and doesn’t really speak for any sort of at large trend. In fact, in response to Markos, a diarist on his own site launched an effort to raise the money for Obama in mass, FISA be damned, and ostensibly hauled in nearly $10,000 at last update. So while I don’t question Kathy or Markos, or anyone like them, individually, it doesn’t seem like a particularly good empirical explanation to me.

I tend to come down more or less in agreement with Josh Marshall on this, in that it takes a “hot” moment to spur to sort of small donor wave that brought in eye popping figures in Januray, February, and March. June means that the looooooong primary is over, things are cooling down and refocusing, supporters are worn out and want a break from politics, and there’s not a lot going on to really drive a political cycle. Yes we get spats here and there, but they either don’t get covered by the media, or revolve around surrogates. Not exactly the excitement of an Iowa caucus win, a string of monumental speeches, or inspiring a will.i.am video. So far as that goes, I’d say keep an eye out for the period from the convention on. If the first black nominee for President accepting on the 40th anniversary of the “I Have a Dream” speech in front of 80,000 or so people at a packed football stadium on every channel doesn’t cause a bounce in donations leading into the start of the general election cycle, then we can talk about Obama having a problem. As it stands now though, if $30 million is going to be the monthly floor, in June no less, in a year where the public overwhelmingly favors the Democrats (and it does appear Obama outraised McCain last month) then I don’t see any real reason to worry. At least not yet.

Also, the Washington Post is reporting that some Clinton donors are reluctant to give to Obama with the debt retirement issue still out, and that many Obama donors aren’t enthused about paying it off. How did this become a major media story again? I suppose because it involves the Clintons. Anyway, I don’t see why it should come as a shock to anyone that big Obama donors have a bad feeling about retiring Clinton’s debt. Yes, it is fairly standard for the winner to do, but it’s also fairly standard for the loser(s) to concede the race once it’s evident that they can’t win, no matter how many contests are left. Rudy Giuliani, whose debt John McCain’s donors largely retired, is a perfect example. There was a long way to go after Florida, but it didn’t matter because Giuliani couldn’t win and he knew it. So he dropped out, endorsed McCain, and McCain repaid the favor after the fact. As far as I know, this is the first time the winner is being expected to pay off debt the loser accrued mostly by attacking the eventual nominee well after any mathematical chance at winning was gone. And we’re talking about approximtely 3 months of attacks here (I put Texas as the moment at which it became impossible for Clinton to win). The sheer arrogance of the Clinton donors, at least, is absolutely stunning here. It’s like they can’t get their head around the fact that it’s not about them anymore. And you’d think they might be a bit more humbled, after the threats against Nancy Pelosi and the DCCC fell flat a few months ago.

In any case, I think that Obama ought to make it clear, privately, to Clinton and his donors that he’s happy to, privately, appeal to his large donors to help, but that he won’t ask for any money to repay anything owed to Mark Penn, and that he will not use his list of small donors for the task. There’s a whole lot more use for that list in the coming years than smoothing over the hurt feelings and bruised egos of a couple dozen egomaniacs with money.