'Tis the Season

Presidential Candidates Seek Donors in a Holiday-Giving Mood

Presidential campaigns have just days remaining in the fourth quarter to raise funds and build momentum.

Last-Minute Campaign Cash: Are Donors in a Giving Mood?

Republicans and Democrats seeking their party's nomination for the White House are counting on the holiday season to get donors in the giving mood to help year-end fund-raising reports.

"We'll see a big push now because most of the campaigns are figuring that they want to try to get as much online revenue in as possible before the holidays since it's very difficult to raise money and focus attention between Christmas and New Year's," Tony Corrado, a government professor at Colby College, said. "They are now competing with Amazon, except they don’t have two-day shipping."

The final totals raised by the campaigns in the fourth quarter, which closes December 31, will take on greater significance during this election than four years ago because they're required to reveal their finances before the nominating contest kicks off with the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses followed by the New Hampshire primaries. In 2012, the FEC filing deadline came weeks after the Iowa caucuses, which were held on Jan. 3.

This time around candidates and the super-PACs supporting them must file year-end reports on Jan. 31. The Iowa caucuses are slated for Feb. 1.

The amount of money a campaign raises each quarter has increasingly become an important gauge for judging whether a candidate is garnering the support needed to be viable. Doing well or better than expect can earn a candidate increased media attention and help build momentum. Campaigns happy with their totals will likely leak their results early in an attempt to generate publicity and momentum.

"This year, it's going to be more important than it was in 2012 and 2008 because there's a month before the caucuses," Corrado said. "Generally, it's been the case in the past that the cash-on hand figures for the year-end proves to be an important barometer for how well a candidate might do in the caucuses and in New Hampshire."  

On the Republican side, Carly Fiorina's campaign sought help, pleading in an e-mail to supporters on Dec. 20: "Please, invest $13 in Carly as soon as you can—before the FEC deadline on December 31st—so we can continue to build up our ground game and mobilize our supporters in the early states in 2016."

Earlier this month, Senator Marco Rubio's campaign sent out an e-mail warning that it was the "last chance to buy Christmas gifts" and included a link to the campaign's website where they were offering "Marco" winter hats and scarfs for sale. Small print on the website notes that all purchases are considered contributions to the campaign.

"What better holiday gift can you give the Marco supporter in your life than new campaign gear?" the e-mail asked.

On the Democrat's side, the appeals are rolling out, too.  "Add your name to our card for the Clinton family," an e-mail from Hillary Clinton's aide Huma Abedin told supporters on Dec. 20. "Hillary and Bill won’t have time for any family vacations this holiday season, but you can make sure it’s still special and filled with joy!"

The campaigns will likely take a short break around Christmas as not to intrude into their supports' family time, said Lara Brown, associate professor and program director of the political management program at The George Washington University.

"But there's no doubt that fundraising e-mails will be as prolific as bowl games in the December 26th to January 1st time frame," she said.  

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