Where have all the Obama donors gone?

BuzzFeed reports that 88% of the people who contributed $200 or more to the Obama campaign in 2008 — 537,806 people — have not yet given that sum this year. Of course, there is still time for them to give (or give more). However, BuzzFeed also found that 87% of the people who gave $200 — the sum that triggers an itemized report to the Federal Elections Commission — through April of 2008, had not contributed by the end of last month. Thus, President Obama is severely lagging, compared to the last cycle, when it comes to these contributions.

Based on interviews of “drop-off donors,” BuzzFeed found that they still plan to vote for Obama, but that their enthusiasm has decreased considerably. As one would expect, the reason given for this diminished enthusiasm is that Obama hasn’t met the expectations these donors had of him. Typically, the complaint is that he has been too moderate and/or insufficiently bold. Beneath this sentiment, one suspects, is the knowledge that, if anything, the economic situation has gotten worse, not better, under Obama.

Because things have gotten worse, some potential donors see themselves as less able to help Obama financially than they were four years ago. BuzzFeed found that this phenomenon is also contributing to the decline in donations.

But overall, what we have here is more evidence of an “enthusiasm gap.” At the donor level, the gap translates into less robust financial support for Obama. Below the donor level, it may translate into less robust voter turnout.

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