Clinton Donor Base Need Not Apply.
The country witnessed history Tuesday evening, with Senator Barack Obama winning the nomination to represent the Democrat’s in the fall. It is obvious why this is such an historic moment. But I want to take a short detour to highlight three articles written in the New York Times June 4, 2008 that are seemingly unrelated on the surface but how they support the small-donor approach of Obama to fundraising as opposed to the large donor route that Senator Clinton seems to favor.
The first article Start-Up Releases Smaller Version of Camcorder describes their new product called Mino that will sell for $179. The Mino is a pocket size camcorder that is the first cousin of the Flip and Flip Ultra developed by Pure Digital. I have the Ultra and use it all the time. What is striking is the strategy behind the company’s products. Small, simple to use with minimal features. The result is an experience for a consumer that is easy to use, fun and the ability to share videos quickly across the Internet.
The second piece, G.M. Shifts Focus to Small Cars in Sign of Sport Utility Demise is about GM’s shuttering plants to shift to building smaller cars. At first, my response was duh? That’s a no-brainer with gas at $4 dollars a gallon. Then I thought to myself, smaller cars, fuel-efficiency, less expensive. GM’s CEO, Robert Waggoner “ said $4-a-gallon gas prices had forced a “structural shift” by American consumers away from large vehicles into more fuel-efficient cars”. You think?
And finally, the article entitled, Clinton Donor Base Is Obama’s Next Prize describes how Obama may involve the big money fund-raising machine for which the Clinton campaign is famous. Most notable for me is, if the existing base of donors gives an average of $200 the Obama campaign will have over $300 million dollars for the general election sans the Clinton donor base. The small donors are the defacto reason why Senator Obama’s ascendency as the Presidential nominee is so extraordinary, and well, so special for all Americans. While Clinton donors boast their deep, and well endowed wallets, it is virtually impossible to build the kind of support and “active donor base” established by the Obama campaign— 1.5 million strong and growing. If these hard-working women and men, were supplemented with a bevy of 300-400 heavy hitters as the article suggests, this could well take an incorrigible turn against Obama’s bid for President in the fall.
See the theme here? Small. Yes, small is having a huge impact on how we live, drive, capture memories, listen to music, earn a living, and of course raise money in Presidential campaigns. What’s important to keep in mind is how successful companies that keep it simple and small are thriving. Apple’s iPod for example. The Flip Ultra camcorder and of course we can’t’ forget the Toyota Prius and its legendary 40 plus MPGs of fuel economy compared to 13 MPGs for your average SUV.
So, the strategic question for Obama, and his campaign strategist David Axelrod is this: Should we continue the small donor strategy through the general election and forego the Hillary Clinton donor network?
If you believe in the success of Small, which sure seems to be working, not to mention GM’s shift in strategy to building smaller, more fuel efficient cars, then sticking with small just might be the way to go. If you apply this thinking to the large donor approach, how much does it take to “feed” the large donors in terms of expectation? It’s all about “their” collective egos and what “they” want? As Eckhart Tolle writes in his book, A New Earth, “Recognize the ego for what it is: a collective dysfunction, the insanity of the human mind.”
What would they want in return to feed this massive collective ego? By contrast, small donors simply want a government that works, and does what politicians say they will do. Small donors have no need to feed their ego, they are more concerned with feeding their families. This is the conundrum for the Obama campaign? The leadership of Pure Digital adamantly stays away from “feature creep” to give consumers what they want—a camcorder that fits in their vest pocket and works with the push of one button. Again, small is good!
So, here’s what we have: big SUVs, hefty $800 camcorders, and large donors with the ability to write six-figure checks. All are hard to work with, require lots of resources, have high expectations and simply consume more energy and thought that could be used for more prudent pursuits.
Senator Obama has shown that if you have a good story to tell and you stick to your principles, people will vote for you. I would be willing to bet that Republicans and the big money Clinton fund raising network prefer fuel-efficient, smaller cars, easy to use camcorders that don’t cost much and they would love to have the machine that is Obama’s small donor network all giving in unison on average $200 dollars a pop for the general election. So, here’s the deal. The Obama campaign generates $300 million dollars for this fall and Mr. Obama “lives” the message that Senator McCain continues to promote by doing away with special interest money. Therefore, Small equals winning products to stimulate the economy built by U.S. companies. And, just as important as this moment in history, small donor amounts equal big things for the American people in November. Now, that is a fund raising strategy we can all believe in.