By JIM RUTENBERG
Jeff Zeleny and Christopher Drew contributed reporting.
Sen. Barack Obama is drawing up plans for extensive advertising and voter-turnout drives across the nation, hoping to capitalize on his expected fundraising advantage over Sen. John McCain to force Republicans to compete in states they have not had to defend in decades.
With his decision to give up public financing and the spending limits that go with it, Obama has added several seasoned hands to his advertising team, a harbinger of a multifaceted television campaign that people inside and outside Obama headquarters said would grow well beyond its already large presence in 18 states.
Future commercials could run on big national showcases like the Olympics in August and smaller cable networks like MTV and Black Entertainment Television that appeal to specific demographic and interest groups.
Obama is also dispatching paid staff members to all 50 states, an unusual move by the standards of modern presidential campaigns so often fought in just a contained group of contested territories.
His aides and advisers said they did not believe Obama necessarily has a serious chance of winning in many of the traditionally Republican states, but rather that he can at least draw McCain into spending time and money there while also swelling the rolls of Democratic voters and supporting other Democrats on the ballot.
His strategists are busily studying data from focus groups, magazine subscription lists and census studies. It is the beginning of an intensive door-to-door drive, using volunteers overseen by a growing staff of organizers, to reach voters using persuasive messages tailored to their individual interests through the mail, e-mail and word of mouth.
Now, free from the constraints of public financing, campaign and party officials have said that Obama’s budget for the rest of the year could be well above $300 million. But Obama’s fundraising slowed abruptly in May, when the campaign raised $22 million, $10 million less than it had in April and an even sharper drop relative to his monthly performances earlier in the year. The decline was evidence that Obama might have to work hard to keep donations coming in at the record pace he has been setting.
Still, Obama’s allies said his success at building a huge network of donors should give his campaign the resources to build the sort of far-reaching command-and-control center that Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., did not when he was the Democratic nominee in 2004. Kerry’s depleted coffers and reliance on public funds forced him to count on outside groups to sign up voters and run advertisements on his behalf.
With McCain’s acceptance of public financing restricting him to a budget of $84.1 million this fall, party officials say Obama’s decision to opt out of the system is well worth the criticism he has received this week for doing so, even from some allies.
“To have these enormous resources just gives you so many strategic options,” said Tad Devine, a senior strategist for Kerry’s 2004 campaign. “If John Kerry had these resources and had stayed outside the system of public funding, I believe he’d be president today.”
Obama’s aides have warned their donors against being overly giddy. His campaign manager, David Plouffe, urged top fund-raisers this past week to intensify their work as they seek to tap into those who previously supported only Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Obama is to get more personally involved by attending money-raising events from coast to coast over the next few weeks.
Republicans said they still expected Obama to show a sizable financial advantage. But they said they did not believe it would be worth so much if the race comes down to the limited number of states that have decided the last few presidential elections, a fight in which $84.1 million would buy everything McCain will need to stay competitive.
McCain will have considerable help from the Republican National Committee, which has far outpaced the fundraising of the Democratic Party and still houses the vaunted voter identification and turnout machinery that President Bush’s campaign built with his chief strategist, Karl Rove, and the former Republican chairman, Ken Mehlman.
And Republican officials said in interviews that McCain had a strong political identity that has kept him at or near parity with Obama in several polls, and would help carry him through the general election. “While we will be outspent in this election, we will have the necessary resources to drive Senator McCain’s message of reforming government, achieving prosperity and delivering peace,” said Danny Diaz, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee.
Even with the fundraising dip in May, Obama’s aides expect to have something his opponent, McCain, likely will not: enough resources to eliminate the hard choices campaigns have traditionally faced when balancing the competing needs of their various state efforts.
“These resources allow you to not make decisions based on financial limitations,” Plouffe, Obama’s campaign manager, said in an interview.
Referring to a state with a long history of leaning Republican, he added, “If we want to go play in a state like Georgia – TV advertising, staff, mail – in the most fulsome way, we’ll be able to do that.”
By the end of the month, the Obama campaign will have a director and staff members in all 50 states. While some states will have only a few workers assigned to them, the biggest battlegrounds will have scores, many of whom will arrive by the Fourth of July.
The campaign is in many ways building on a strategy championed by Howard Dean, the party chairman who has been pressing Democrats to build a presence in all states rather than focus primarily on battlegrounds. But Obama is putting his own stamp on the plan by moving much of the party’s operations from Washington to his headquarters in Chicago and installing Paul Tewes, one of his top organizers, to oversee it.
Party leaders in Republican-leaning states like Georgia and Montana are already reporting an influx of paid Obama staffers and volunteers who were sent there to begin registering potential Obama voters.
Obama’s team is also sending resources to Virginia, which no Democratic presidential candidate has won since 1964. Abbi Easter, treasurer of the state’s Democratic Party, said Obama had dispatched five paid staff members to the state to begin organizing a voter registration drive.
“I’ve been doing Democratic politics in the state for 25 years, and this is such a novelty I feel like a kid at their first Christmas,” Easter said. She said she was also expecting help from as many as 100 of the 3,600 “Obama Organizing Fellows,” a group of full-time volunteers fanning out across the country to oversee local registration efforts. The mobilization is being helped along by Obama’s robust Internet operation specializing in reaching out to the younger voters who use social networking sites like FaceBook.
But Plouffe said the volunteer program was modeled after the one Bush’s aides devised in 2004, which sent supporters door to door to spread the word about Bush in their own neighborhoods – a personal touch informed by detailed lists of neighbors’ occupations, voting histories, pet causes and hobbies.
Four years ago, Democrats and their liberal allies scrambled to match the vast lists of personal voter information gathered by the Republicans through public records and consumer data banks.
The Democratic National Committee has since greatly improved its voter information file, which is now at Obama’s disposal. But Obama’s aides were also considering buying another huge list with information on 230 million Americans. The list is owned by Catalist, a private concern co-founded by a longtime Democratic operative, Harold M. Ickes.
In an interview, Ickes said that Obama’s campaign aides are particularly interested in new information his company has gathered about cable television viewing habits.
Obama campaign officials said that is because they are considering a specially tailored commercial campaign on niche cable networks that can give Obama special access to groups his campaign considers crucial for victory, like MTV, with its young audience, or BET, with a black viewership.
“It’s a great opportunity to get people information that may be particularly germane to them,” David Axelrod, the campaign’s chief strategist said of the specialty cable commercials, first perfected by Bush in 2004. Yet Obama’s team has looked into advertising in as many as 25 states and has made clear its openness to running ads on the broadcast television networks.
All of this, of course, is going to take more than the $43.1 million Obama had in the bank as of last month. Officials said they expected that Clinton’s fundraisers could bring in a total of $75 million in the coming weeks. But, members of both parties said, Obama had his real advantage in his own group of 1.5 million donors, many of whom have given small amounts and could be readily tapped again. “They’ll continue to give,” said Eli Pariser, the executive director of the liberal group MoveOn, an Internet fundraising pioneer. “As long as he doesn’t treat them as an ATM, but as partners in the movement.”© The New York Times. All rights reserved. This article originally appeared in The New York Times.