The Lonely Centrist

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Is Obama Puffing Up the Donor Numbers?

To the Centerman, there has always been something just a little amiss about the campaign of Barack Obama. We have already found ourselves asking, to borrow a phrase from Walter Mondale, borrowed from Wendy's Hot & Juicy Hamburgers, "where's the beef?"

That question arises again in the context of a New York Times story regarding Obama's fundraising. The Obama campaign has made much of the large number of donors to Senator's campaign, as proof of his widespread popularity. But is there beef in them buns? According to the Times, this comes about because,
Mr. Obama’s campaign has also employed novel tactics — like counting sales of $5 speech tickets or $4.50 Obama key chains as individual contributions — to pump up his numbers and transform grass-roots enthusiasm into more useful forms of support. No other campaign is known to have listed paraphernalia sales as donations.

The Times does not say what excluding those "donors" would do to Obama's numbers, nor how they compare to other candidates. In one sense, it hardly matters - Obama's fundraising numbers would be impressive no matter how he got it, and having people buy campaign trinkets is, in a way, as impressive as having them directly contribute to the campaign. The excitement is real. Yet one comes away once again thinking that Obama may be just a bit slicker than most folks yet think. The Centerman would like to believe that Senator Obama is the candidate so many seem to think he is - the unifying centrist, the man of integrity, the leader of a new generation. So far, though, I am just not quite buying it.

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