Big Bush Backers Slow to Support McCain
More evidence of Sen. John McCain’s difficulties in winning support from the Republican base emerged today. A new analysis by Congressional Quarterly has found that just 8 percent of President George W. Bush’s biggest campaign contributors have donated to the McCain campaign. According to CQ, " only about 5,000 of the 62,800 donors who gave the maximum contribution of $2,000 to Bush" have donated to McCain as of April 30. Furthermore, the report found that 1,430 of Bush’s 2004 donors — a little more than 2 percent — have donated to Democratic candidates. CQ cited dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq as a big factor in the GOP crossover:
[A] lifetime Republican who gave $2,000 to Bush in 2004, said he would not be contributing to McCain or the party’s presidential effort this year — largely because of the Iraq War.
“I always considered myself a Republican, primarily because of a belief in smaller government. And if you want a smaller government, you don’t want wars — especially wars that can be avoided,” said this long-time GOP donor, who asked not to be named because of his history with the party.
As the CQ article notes, it’s not exactly fair to compare McCain, who just emerged from a competitive Republican primary campaign, with an incumbent president who was, at the time, extremely popular with his party. Still, the data suggests McCain has a long way to go if he wants to build a fund-raising machine that can hold its own against the Obama juggernaut.
David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, a grass-roots conservative lobbying organization, says McCain’s fund-raising struggles are less about his problems appealing to conservatives, whom he has made some strides with recently, and more about his lack of infrastructure.
“It’s really a symptom of the fact he doesn’t have the mechanism in place working the way it should to reach all those people,” who supported Bush in 2004, Keene said.
Indeed, there are signs the campaign’s outreach to former Bush donors has been less than aggressive. A number of individuals who raised bundled contributions for Bush in 2004 said they don’t feel a sense of urgency to give now, even though they intend to at some point.
"You know you’re going to get hit, so you kind of duck while you can,” said one former Bush supporter, who has yet to be contacted by the campaign.
The McCain campaign has been somewhat slow to build its operation in key battleground states like Ohio and Pennsylvania. PolitickerOH.com reported May 29 that the campaign had just hired a regional director and press secretary for Ohio and Pennsylvania, as well as an Ohio state director. A lagging start-up considering that McCain effectively clinched the GOP nomination on Mar. 4.
One advantage to the long, drawn-out Democratic primary season was that it forced the Obama and Clinton campaigns to create offices all over the country and begin engaging voters early on. The Obama camp opened offices in many of Ohio’s major cities immediately after Super Tuesday, well in advance of the Mar. 4 primary.