Obama's $150 Million Changing Rules Of The Game Barack Obama has set several money records in his two-year White House run. Each time, it seemed he might be changing the rules of the fundraising game, provided he could keep it up. Now it looks as though he truly has.

Obama's $150 Million Changing Rules Of The Game

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It's Morning Edition from NPR News, good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm Steve Inskeep. Barack Obama says he is grateful to get an endorsement from Colin Powell. Powell is a former general, a former Secretary of State, a Republican and before the Iraq war, was among the most admired Americans. Obama may be grateful for that endorsement and NPR's Cokie Roberts will analyze that (unintelligible) moment. But a different kind of endorsement could mean more. It's the endorsement symbolized by thousands and thousands of campaign contributions. Obama's campaign raised $150 million in September alone. Here's NPR's Peter Overby.

PETER OVERBY: Barack Obama has set several money records in his two-year White House run. Each time it seemed he might be changing the rules of the fundraising game, provided he could keep it up. Now it looks as though he truly has. Running on momentum from August, his previous record-setting month at $66 million, Obama more than doubled that. He also garnered 632,000 new donors, according to the campaign. He now claims more than three million contributors and an average contribution of just $86 per donor. The campaign announced these mind-boggling stats in a video emailed to supporters Sunday morning. Campaign manager David Plouffe gave thanks, and then asked for more.

Mr. DAVID PLOUFFE (Campaign Manager, Barack Obama): So even though we had such a great September financially, we need to ask you to continue to contribute.

OVERBY: John McCain appeared to take the news in stride. He has repeatedly criticized Obama for walking away from a previous pledge to use public financing. That's even though both Obama and McCain turned down public funds in the primaries because the spending limits were too low. McCain chose to take public funds for the September, October general election campaign, so he gets $84 million from the Treasury. But he can't collect any private money. In the last month when he could, August, he collected $52 million. On Sunday, McCain was on FOX News Sunday, where he quickly tagged Obama as the first major-party candidate to reject public financing for the fall campaign.

Senator JOHN MCCAIN (Republican, Arizona, Presidential Candidate): First time, first time since the Watergate scandal. And I can tell you this: That has unleashed now in presidential campaigns, a new flood of spending that will then cause a scandal. And then we will fix it again. But Senator Obama has broken it.

OVERBY: The Obama campaign is deploying its cash to dominate the airwaves and to challenge McCain in traditionally Republican states. David Plouffe gave an example in the video.

Mr. PLOUFFE: We're always on the lookout for expansion. And West Virginia now is a state that we have to find more money, because we're playing in West Virginia.

Chairman DOUGLAS MCKINNEY (West Virginia Republican): Yeah, they are dumping money in here. We don't know how much.

OVERBY: That's the West Virginia Republican Chairman Douglas McKinney.

Chairman MCKINNEY: We are seeing more and more offices spring up on the county level. And I read in the state newspapers that they are bringing in numbers of paid workers across the state.

OVERBY: McKinney says he isn't worried about McCain in West Virginia. But the state ballot has a lot of other races: governor, attorney general and secretary of state plus agriculture commissioner and two state Supreme Court seats. So Obama's big money could change things all the way down the ballot, especially because West Virginia is among the few states that allow straight party-line voting.

Chairman MCKINNEY: In the last election, it was the biggest straight ticket voting in the history of the state.

OVERBY: Straight Democratic ticket, says McKinney, which is a big factor was money. Tony Corrado is a political scientist at Colby College with a specialty in campaign finance. He says having unlimited money in the final two weeks means that Obama can go into big TV markets, while McCain is stuck in small ones. Obama can build up his ground operations at the same time. And because he doesn't have to depend on his national party apparatus for help, his campaign has more strategic control. At some point Corrado suggests, it may be too much.

Mr. TONY CORRADO (Political Scientist, Colby College): At some point here, they'll probably reach a law of diminishing returns. But that's a point that a presidential campaign has never really reached before.

OVERBY: And it's a point that until now, presidential candidates could only dream of. Peter Overby, NPR News Washington.

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