A presidential campaign is no small expense. The cross-country travel, the advertisements, the fitted suits and campaign pins cost a pretty penny, making successful fundraising an important skill in the race to the White House. According to the New York Times’ “2012 Money Race,” the leading candidates have raised more than $380 million to finance their campaigns, amounting to about a third of the total campaign spending by Obama and McCain back in 2008. While about 54 percent of Obama’s campaign contributions since his 2008 election have been under $200, 54 percent of Romney’s campaign contributions have been in the amount of $2500 -- the maximum donation size permitted by the Federal Election Commission.
These figures certainly say a lot about the people supporting each political party, but they also say a lot about the candidates themselves. The clear disparities beg the question: Why is Republican candidate Mitt Romney so good at bringing home the bacon?
Many have attributed his financial prowess to his 15 years running Bain Capital, where he raised billions of dollars from investors. Some say intimate gatherings at his home in New Hampshire featuring his wife’s homemade cookies have charmed his supporters. Others dig a little deeper, citing his fundraising experience with the “Cougar Club” at Brigham Young University.
New America Schwartz Fellow Noam Scheiber takes a different route entirely, pinning Romney’s fundraising success to his Mormonism.
Like successful fundraising, evangelizing requires endless conversations with strangers. The fundraiser, like the evangelizer, must speak without embarrassment about subjects that are normally cause for much embarrassment, and must ultimately persuade the stranger to entrust him with something of great importance (money in the first instance, their eternal soul in the second). Both pursuits are highly transactional and empirical—you have to officially be baptized into the Mormon faith, a kind of religious analog to signing on a dotted line, and Mormon missions keep close tabs the numbers of converts they’re attracting. Both activities involve lots of rejection and require incredible resourcefulness and on-the-fly learning.
There’s no doubt that Romney’s experience in finance has given him an advantage in the fight for funds, but it seems his role as a minister has done more than lengthen his professional resume.