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Washinton Post: Is Obama the $100 Million Dollar Man?


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Barack Obama's massive spending on television -- $21 million for the first week of October alone -- coupled with his decision to buy 30 minutes of prime time television at the end of the month has stoked rumors that the Illinois senator may have shattered all fundraising records for the month of September.

Reports documenting Obama's fundraising aren't due at the Federal Election Commission until Oct. 20 and -- if past is prologue -- his campaign won't release the details of their donations or expenditures until that day.

But, the fact that the information likely won't be available for another week hasn't stopped the political world -- Democrats and Republicans -- from speculating about just how much Obama collected last month.

"With the unprecedented growth in their Internet list and their aggressive fundraising calendar, it is well within the realm of possibility that Obama may raise close to $100 million in one month," said one senior Democratic fundraiser. The source added that Obama could well grow his e-mail list to upwards of nine million people before election day and raise better than $30 million from major donors by that time.

"With the way the dynamics of this race is going -- Obama looking stronger and stronger, while McCain looks more out of touch -- I wouldn't be surprised if Obama easily surpasses $100 million and reaches $115 million plus in September," said another veteran Democratic fundraiser.

Never forget that donors -- big and small -- like to be with the winner. So, the more Obama looks like a winner, the more likely that undecided dollars will head in his direction over the final weeks of the contest.

Obama's best previous one-month fundraising total came in August -- typically a somewhat slow time for political cash collection -- when he raised an eye-popping $67 million and ended the month with $77 million in the bank. (Looking for Obama's monthly fundraising totals so far this year? It's after the jump.)

When contacted by The Fix, the Obama campaign offered no comment about their fundraising totals for the past month. And, it's worth noting, that past speculation about how much money the campaign raised in any given month has usually been wildly inaccurate as so few people even within Obama's inner circle are kept in the loop about his cash collection operation.

Still, it's hard based on the campaign's spending to not assume that Obama is almost certain to have broken his previous fundraising records last month.

According to a Fix calculation of spending in the week beginning Sept. 30 and ending Oct. 6, Obama outspent John McCain roughly three to one -- $21 million to $7 million. (Spending by the Republican National Committee's independent expenditure arm helped even the playing field slightly, although Obama still outspent the combined GOP forces by $8 million in that week alone.)

And, late last week, it was revealed that Obama is seeking to buy a roadblock (a coordinated block of time on every national broadcast network) for 8 pm on Oct. 29. He already has purchased a half-hour of TV time on CBS and NBC -- at a cost of roughly $1 million each -- and is seeking time on Fox and ABC as well.

The last candidate to make such a play on broadcast television was Ross Perot way back in 1992. He ran a series of political infomercials, the largest of which -- on Nov. 2, 1992 -- drew 26 million viewers, according to Nielsen.

Watch television (or listen to the radio) in any swing state -- The Fix spent a night in Scranton over the weekend -- and the dominance of Obama over McCain on television becomes readily apparent.

Obama's massive fundraising -- whether it winds up at $70, $80, $90 or $100 million in September (and October) -- justifies the political savvy of the Illinois senator's decision to go back on his previous pledge to accept public financing for the general election.

While McCain, who did accept public funds, is limited to roughly $84 million in the general election, Obama has been free to raise and spend what he likes -- leading to huge spending edges in emerging battlegrounds like Florida, North Carolina and Indiana.

Obama's unprecendented fundraising ability combined with the incredibly toxic political environment (more on that later today) makes the Illinois senator a decided favorite with 22 days remaining before the fall election.

Obama Month by Month Fundraising

January: $36.8 million

February: $56.7 million

March: $42.8 million

April: $31.9 million

May: $23.4 million

June: $54.2 million

July: $51.4 million

August: $67.5 million

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