Exclusive: Obama’s 2012 Digital Fundraising Outperformed 2008

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Brendan Smialowski / Getty Images

Twitter co-founder and Executive Chairman Jack Dorsey listens while President Barack Obama speaks during an online Twitter town hall meeting from the East Room of the White House July 6, 2011 in Washington, DC.

Nearly a year ago, Barack Obama’s campaign manager Jim Messina took to YouTube with an expletive-laden post-holiday message for supporters. “People have speculated that this is a billion dollar campaign,” Messina said. “That’s bull—-.” And he meant it, at the time.

But when the final numbers are counted, Obama’s aides now expect more than $1 billion dollars to have been raised by the 2012 campaign and its affiliated party committees, breaking the 10-figure milestone for the first time in history. The reason is simple: the campaign brought in more small-dollar fundraising through email, social media, mobile and its website during the final months of the race than initially projected.

In total, according to new campaign calculations acquired exclusively by TIME, the Obama team raised about $690 million digitally in 2012, up from about $500 million in 2008, according to a senior campaign adviser. That number includes all contributions that were given electronically, including some donations that were generated by high-dollar fundraisers but logged through the website.

(MORE: The 2012 Money Race: Romney Relies on Big Donors, While Obama Taps the Grassroots)

When counting only fundraising that was initially generated by digital efforts, including email, social media, mobile and the website, the 2012 campaign raised $504 million, up from $403 million in 2008. Much of that digital campaign cash came in the final months of the campaign. September 2012, for instance, was a better month than September 2008 online. And in October 2012, when there was significant voter excitement and anxiety generated by the presidential debates, digital fundraising increased on a month-over-month basis, instead of decreasing as it did in 2008. The total number of donors to the campaign also increased in 2012, the adviser said. In all, 4.4 million individuals gave to the Obama re-election bid, up from 3.95 million in 2008.

This success runs counter to the conventional wisdom, which held that Obama’s re-election campaign would struggle mightily to approach the enormous grassroots enthusiasm of his first presidential run. It is also a testament to the campaign’s leadership, including Messina, who invested heavily in digital efforts early, and the campaign’s digital team, run by Teddy Goff, Marie Ewald and Blue State Digital’s Joe Rospars, who were able to fine-tune their tactics and techniques for raising money electronically. It may also suggest that American voters over the last four years have become more comfortable with the idea of giving small amounts of money to a presidential campaign online.

Here are some other digital milestones that the 2012 campaign has been celebrating, according to the senior adviser who spoke with TIME:

–The number of likes on Facebook pages for the campaign, including everyone from the President to Michelle Obama to Joe Biden, increased from 19 million to 45 million over the course of the race. The number of Twitter followers increased from 7 million to 23 million. Partly as a result, an image of President Obama embracing his wife, which was tweeted and shared over Facebook on Election Night, became the most shared pieces of content in both social networks’ histories. As of today, the Facebook photo has more than 4.4 million likes, and has been shared more than 582,000 times. President Obama’s interview on the social site Reddit gave the aggregator the biggest traffic spike in its history.

–The campaign’s new social network for supporters, Dashboard, organized more than 358,000 offline events over the course of the campaign. There were 1.1 million RSVPs for those events.

–More than 1 million people downloaded the campaign’s Facebook App, which allowed the campaign to overlay its own voter files with the friend networks of its supporters. In the final weeks of the campaign, the campaign used this information to ask its supporters to directly contact their friends who were targeted voters in key swing states via Facebook, with specific requests for everything from voting early to watching a specific persuasion video. In all, more than 600,000 supporters shared items with an estimated 5 million individual targets through this system. The exact number of people reached, however, is not known; traffic on the system was so high on Election Day that logs of voter activity were taken offline to free up server space.

LIST: Six Things We Learned from Obama’s Facebook Timeline

27 comments
paulejb1
paulejb1

It's a money laundering scheme. Barack Obama hands out billions in taxpayer cash to his favorites such as public employee unions and his pals  running green energy scams and they return the favor by returning millions to his campaign coffers. Don't expect anything to change in the next four years.

PaulHPease
PaulHPease

I started to write a letter but stopped. I had forgotten how to write. And didn't have a stamp.

sacredh
sacredh

I'm either proud or ashamed to say that I've never logged onto Facebook, twitter, MySpace or sent a text message. Old loves die hard.

formerlyjames
formerlyjames

I miss the personal messages already.  Sniff, sniff.  Still, I remain true to the cause. 

brenro12
brenro12

I always wondered what happened to Messina after he broke up with Kenny Loggins.

BenevolentLawyer
BenevolentLawyer

I wish we had Disqus. At least we could go back and correct mistakes. Oh well, I am not doing the cut and paste corrections thing. My mistakes will just be saved for all time. :)

BenevolentLawyer
BenevolentLawyer

This article seems eerily familiar. Has Scherer or someone else on this site not shared this information before?? Hmmm....yes, I know I seem so dismissive. Its just that I cannot forget that the press including those on TIME magazine fell for the Right Wing BLOWHARDS, and joined them to continue to feed us the same load of horse manure, loaded with and wild conjecture and imaginings about the elections being super close, and how Romney could win the electoral college etc. 

No one on this site really took a position to refute the wild imaginings of the Far Right and their so called base enthusiasm, the enthusiasm that would make Romney win inspite of his horrid performance in the polls. All a pile of BUNK. They were BULLIED into compliance, and were complicit in misleading the electorate.  

Other than Nate Silver, and a few other courageous souls, many in the media including many on TIME were brow beaten and cowed by the furious lies and posturing from the Far Right. The coverage of the elections were pathetic. The media is supposed to be one of the "so-called" guardians of the American democracy. However, the media failed us ALL in this election. Posting trite statistics is a sad reminder of the mediocre and coverage the presidential elections received in the media.

Anyway, the only good thing about this piece is that--it is a break from reading about the salacious Petraeus scandal. Oh well. 

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

"runs counter to the conventional wisdom" I wonder how many stories about the campaign should include that phrase.

sacredh
sacredh

Here's something that democrats have figured out that republicans haven't: We're all Americans. Whites, Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, religious, non-religious, straight, gay/lesbian, women, men, poor, middle class, rich and every other group that you can think of. If you put enough voting blocks together, they make a majority. But, and this is a big but, you have to appeal to enough people to make up a majority. The country isn't made up of angry white men any more than it is made up liberal women that are pro-choice.

.

Obama has been accused of dishing out gifts to various demographics. Respect and inclusion is a gift? Promoting policies that level the playing field is a gift? Recognizing that every person is entitled to the same rights is a gift? Saying that being different or believeing something different doesn't mean that you aren't an important part of the whole is a gift? Obama won because he appealed to more people. He won a near electoral landslide. He won the popular vote by more than three and a half million votes. He won because he represented what more people believe in. He won because people believed that he represented and cared about them.

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@paulejb1 

We certainly don't expect you to change over the next four years, no matter how much our economy and country improve.  Keep whining, you're stuck on this train ride.

sacredh
sacredh

gysgt213, nfl & Sue_N, I'm not anti-technology at all, I just don't want people to be able to contact me at any time. I am the only person at work that doesn't have a cellphone. There's just something that I find very annoying in being available at all times. I'm also appalled at how inconsiderate and rude cellphone use makes people. We have rules at our house about cellphones. They're turned off during meals and when we watch a movie. 

Sue_N
Sue_N

@sacredh Good Lord. My editor doesn't have a cell phone. I thought he was the last throwback. Y'all should get in touch, form a support group.

By mail or something …

gysgt213
gysgt213

@sacredh Jesus grandpa.  Are you still sending telegrams or just using the pony express?

Sue_N
Sue_N

@formerlyjames I know. I miss all the daily (hourly?) emails from Jim, Stephanie, the Bidens, the Obamas and whatever random celebrity popped up in my inbox.

Now I actually have to read work-related stuff …

nflfoghorn
nflfoghorn

"...Asof today, the Facebook photo has more than 4.4 million likes, and has beenshared more than 582,000 times. President Obama’s nterview on the social siteReddit gave the aggregator the biggest traffic spike in itshistory'"

Imagine....theworld just ceased to exist without these necessary means of existence.

BenevolentLawyer
BenevolentLawyer

@Paul,nnto My whole problem with the coverage was especially in evidence regarding the polls. If they used the "Registered Voters" in their polls, it would have been clear that Obama was in the lead all along. Instead, they succumbed to the mass screams and FAKE indignation explaining what  "Likely Voters", should be used for polls instead. 

The parameters used to determine Likely voters (by various pollsters) varied wildly, and was quite silly. If you decide that someone who voted in the last two elections etc. was a so-called likely voter, that would exclude youth that just came of age to vote, it would exclude newly Naturalized Citizens, and would obviously exclude many people who did not vote because they were not reached, or just were not healthy enough or available to vote in the last two election cycles.

This is only ONE of the many ways that the Media, including TIME, succumbed to covering the elections for the most part in a manner that would not draw the ire of the Nutty Far Right drones. 

When Gallup was strong armed to change their Polling system effective October 1, 2012, most in the Media did not discuss it, or deem it worth mentioning. In fact after that change in the Gallup process, subsequent polls shot Romney into the lead, and kept him there--even though Romney eventually was soundly rejected by the electorate in the November 6th elections. 

"Gallup’s editor-in-chief, Frank Newport, is defending the organization’s polling, which showed Mitt Romney leading President Obama in the 2012 election race in the final few weeks of the campaign.Newport said that Gallup’s numbers were close enough to fall within the margin of error, and took a shot at blogger Nate Silver when he criticized people who “focus on aggregating and analyzing others’ polls.” Source- Gallup Defends Pre-Election Polling, Takes A Swipe At Nate Silver by Josh Feldman | 5:09 pm, November 13th, 2012

As I said NO ONE on this site (I mean the writers like Scherer etc.) spoke up during the elections, against the blind claims/fabricated polls from the Far Right, nor did the withstand the bullying from the Far Right. The Far Right not only convinced its CULT of Fox News viewers that Romney would win--but they also filled many "main stream" writers with so much fear, that those main stream writers abdicated their TRUTHS--and in so doing-- neglected to speak or write the truth to us. They did not lead a sustained charge against the Far Right lies that were being pounded as scientific truths. It was very troubling. 

Romney was NOT surging in the polls ,after the initial week following the first debates. A view of the polls of "registered voters" through out this so called SURGE periods, makes the surge claims almost laughable. The popular vote polls were also a pile of bunk, and we were played like drums by media with their sale of so-called possible scenarios with the popular vote, and Romney winning. 

Anyway, as I stated, the statistics in this article are irritating because they are a reminder of the cowardice in the Media. The so called free press that was supposed to guard our democracy should have been described as the blind or WIMP press. 

I could go on and on, including the fact that no one thought they should stay on the Romney dishonesty with his taxes, or his pivot to the center. How could it be a PIVOT when his website still contained the same Far Right extreme positions he tried to disavow late in the elections. His misrepresentations were glossed over in the media, including here on TIME. Even though the Romney team stated that they would not be affected by fact checkers, did that mean fact checking should not have been aggressively pursued??? Apparently, that is the way many in the media responded to that Romney affront. 

I know some of the issues, such as money and new technology, could not be as effectively factored into most of the elections discourse. However, even with the facts as they stood, Obama was in the lead, almost the entire time. Nate Silver and a few others chronicled Obama's consistent lead in the polls, and sought to rebut the so called Far Right enthusiasm claim. Hardly anyone supported him. 

Here is an excerpt from a Nate Silver post:

"It was one of the best-known polling firms, however, that had among the worst results. In late October, Gallup consistently showed Mr. Romney ahead by about six percentage points among likely voters, far different from the average of other surveys. Gallup’s final poll of the election, which had Mr. Romney up by one point, was slightly better, but still identified the wrong winner in the election. Gallup has now had three poor elections in a row. In 2008, their polls overestimated Mr. Obama’s performance, while in2010, they overestimated how well Republicans would do in the race for the United States House." 

 VERY FEW FOLKS in the so called main stream media showed strength and courage, and instead of research and ethical positions, the joined in fake drumbeat to us (the electorate), consequently, we were misled and LIED to. The media did not vigorously and consistent "protect" our democracy, and were, at least in my opinion, a LARGE part of the problem.

Thanks to the courage of the American populace, and of course thanks to Silver and his brave contemporaries, we were able to shut the door on the LYING, SOULLESS and UNETHICAL Romney. The lesson for anyone in this elections, based on the cowardice and fear shown by the media, is to do your OWN research, and find dependable sources for news that does not absorb the NOISE as TIME, and so many others did.   

grape_crush
grape_crush

All of them, most likely. The Beltway Caucus doesn't understand that the game has shifted somewhat and has cast aside some of that conventional wisdom. That's why we get 'Romney Comeback' stories when the math shows the election is not really that close.

Innovation always has to struggle against conventional wisdom before being incorporated into the existing structure. Look at the resistance people had to Sabermetrics and the Run and Shoot Offense when they were new and seeing success. You can argue that these innovations no longer exist in a pure form, but you can see how much influence they have on the game. 

Traditional measures and tactics won't ever go away entirely; there will always be a part of the political conventional wisdom that's right because it works or at some point it has worked...but the ground has shifted when it comes to elections, demographically and strategically. We'll see how long it takes for them to adjust, if they are able.

sacredh
sacredh

Pnnto, I got a cell phone 2-3years ago for Christmas. I didn't want one. I only accepted it because they kept telling me I needed to carry one for emergencies (like everybody else in the world doesn't have one that I could borrow in a real emergency). I warned them that the first time somebody called me for a non-emergency that I'd wouldn't use it again. Sure enough, a couple of days after Christmas the MIL called me up and asked me to stop at the bakery and bring home donuts. I had specifically warned everyone NOT to give the number to the MIL. I got home and tossed it in a drawer. I have no idea where it is now.

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

@sacredh Dang I could have written that. No cell phone, no twitter/facebook etc. I escort people out of my office if they start using their phones.

It's a paradox that all the social media people do has led to anti-social behavior.

nflfoghorn
nflfoghorn

I think he's waiting on the town crier.

NP042
NP042

@grape_crush Run and Shoot Offense

I believe the correct term for this is the "Fun n' Gun"

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

@sacredh  Looking past your clear misunderstanding of the importance of donuts I completely agree with the rest of your sentiments.