Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Cool t-shirts: Obama's secret weapon?
A whisper campaign is rocketing around Washington, and the target is Barack Obama. He has proudly talked about the overwhelming number of small donors who have contributed to his campaign, with supporters citing them as evidence of a groundswell that could sweep Obama into the Democratic nomination. But now critics say he is padding his numbers.

Obama is counting every person who buys a campaign button, t-shirt or bumper sticker as a donor, and that has pushed up his numbers. It's only made a small difference, his campaign folks say; people who bought merchandise account for only about one percent of his donors.

What's more, the candidate himself says, correctly, that under law he must list these people as donors, because the campaign itself is selling the merchandise. When campaigns farm their merchandising out to vendors, like many of them do, only then do the rules change ... and the buyers are no longer donors.

That's how campaign analysts read the law. But the whispers go on. What do you think: Is this about a real attempt to massage the numbers or just sour grapes?

-- By Tom Foreman, CNN Correspondent
Posted By CNN: 8:49 PM ET
  13 Comments
So if I buy some of his bumper stickers and use them to line the bottom of my pet cockatoo's birdcage, does he get to count me as a supporter? Sounds like number padding to me.
Posted By Barbara, Culver City, CA : 9:03 PM ET
Hi Tom,

Firstly, let me say that I have never been so well informed regarding politics (AND so completely entertained) as I have been since you began to deliver "Raw Politics". You surely have an uncanny knack of getting to the bottom of all the hype, without a doubt. But to do it in a way that is hysterically funny as well? Hats off to you!

Now, to answer your question, I would have to say "sour grapes". Seems to me that Obama is just simply being forthright and honest with his numbers and of course everyone will try to bring down the honest guy. I suppose they are afraid that he will make them look bad - and rightly so. That is just my humble opinion of course.

Thanks for asking, Tom. Keep up the stellar work on "Raw Politics". I look forward to it every night. You are my hero - right next to Anderson, of course.
Posted By Pati McMillan, Camp Hill, PA : 9:40 PM ET
I'd call it number padding; every candidate probably does it.

What troubles me more is that this post, Tom, has nothing to do with Obama's qualifications. Why aren't we focusing on what Obama's experience is that makes him think he'll be a good President?
Posted By xtina chicago IL : 10:32 PM ET
Hi Tom,
Hmmm, let me make a guess. Sour grapes if you're a Democrat, Padded numbers if you're a Republican. Let's hope the whispers going on behind the scenes don't come in contact with an OPEN MIC! We've been there, done that.
Posted By Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif. : 11:02 PM ET
I'd say it's a little bit of both. I'm sure the Obama camp is exploiting a legal technicality and I'm just as sure the other candidates wish they had thought of doing the same.
Posted By Joseph Kowalski, North Huntingdon, PA : 11:13 PM ET
Mr. Foreman, I truly enjoy your segments and take on the political landscape. You are very creative.

In the answer to your question, I do not think that Obama is fudging his numbers, I just think he is following the law. If he did not count these people as donors then how would he account for the money he's making off of them. Clearly, his "merchandise store" is a money making attempt gain extra cash so he can move forward with his campaign.

I think that it is sour grapes to some degree from the other campaigners. They will probably have their "merchandise stores" in the future. Again, it is early in the race still and there is sometime to go before we really know who is going to shine and take the Democratic nomination.

Obama is in it to win it! He is a bright man, and man with good intentions. We just need to let him compete against his opponents in a creative and innovative way.

As long as he is following the law and doing the right things then his opponents either need to step up their game or get in back in follow the true leader of this presidential race.

I have a question for Barbara in Culver City, California. Why would you spend five dollars per bumper sticker to line your bird cage? You must have some serious money to burn! You are willing to support a candidate you don't like?

I don't think that a non supporter would pay such inflated prices for Obama merchandise, unless they don't mind giving monetary support to a candidate they don't think would be a good leader for this country.

Peace
Posted By Madeliene; Atlanta, Georgia : 12:27 AM ET
It's absolutely amazing how nothing can be taken at "face value." I believe it amazing that a politician finally decided to follow the rule of law without undue second guessing and/or requesting interpretation before, during, and after the fact.
Posted By Anthony, Dandridge, TN : 1:24 AM ET
It makes sense to me! Why would anyone buy merchandise promoting a candidate if that person doesn't like the candidate? And from what I've heard, by law, if the funds from merchandise sold go into the campaign coffers, they must be declared as donor-given. As I said, it makes sense to me!
Posted By Sharon, Ontario, CANADA : 1:40 AM ET
Might I suggest that the next time interpretation of the law is needed that it is left to the professionals and not campaign analysts. Sounds like hype to underscore the fact that Senator Obama is, and get this, a politician who is actually trying to follow the rule of law. Don't laugh--this "aint" funny. :o)
Posted By Tony, Dandridge, TN : 9:59 AM ET
I think it is number padding and I bet all the candidates do it in one form or another. To be accurate, Obama's campaign should break down the data as ### supporters contritubted $$$ in cash contributions and ### purchased merchandise totaling $$$ for a grand total of #### and $$$$. This way he still gets to double dip and count people twice--those who contribute cash and buy his stuff. Unless we say we want an unduplicated count of supporters. Sorry to go on like this, now you all know what I do for a living, not that you care. I really don't pay attention to the contribution counts as I figure it is all fudged and the result of creative accounting. I will vote for who I think will make the best President regardless of the amount of money they raise. Oops, unless they raise the most money they won't be on the ballot. So scratch that thought.
Posted By Charlotte D, Stockton ca : 1:01 PM ET
Tom - short answer: sour.

People who don't support Obama are not buying his bumperstickers and tees. Even if the campaign only gets a 50 cent profit (or whatever) off the bumperstickers, it's a campaign contribution.
Posted By Arachnae, Sterling VA : 2:43 PM ET
Hey Tom!
I am sure this is just an attempt to massage Obama's numbers. You know, when I donate to charities I love the motivation of recieving a cool new tee! Doesn't eveyone? Ahh, those democrats of the round table! My party, my deciples!!!!
Posted By Betty Ann, Nacogdoches,TX : 7:21 PM ET
"When campaigns farm their merchandising out to vendors, like many of them do, only then do the rules change ... and the buyers are no longer vendors."

Shouldn't the last 'vendors' actually be 'donors'?
Posted By Anthony M, Atlanta GA : 3:52 PM ET
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