April 27, 2012

Outlier fundraising?

A lot of times when talking about polls where a specific poll does not align with the majority of polls out there during the same time frame it is referred to as an outlier. This simply means that the poll may be subject to statistical noise (bad polling, bad weather, other events influencing it than the primary expectation) and is likely not reflective of the true state of the situation with respect to whatever is being polled.  It lies on or beyond the outskirts of the normal range you'd expect to see from poll results. Often outlier polls scream headlines that aren't justified by a critical look at the reality of the situation. An outlier is typically not an indicator of a trend, more often it is in fact, just an outlier.

The same outlier principle can be applied to other situations, at least rhetorically or metaphorically.  A recent article in The Hill may be a good example.  It cites a recent surge in campaign donations for Mitt Romney and extrapolates Romney catching up to Obama in terms of fundraising.  For conservatives willing to pretend believe that Romney is a conservative Republican, that would seem like a dose of good news.  But I think it's an outlier, backed up by some sensationalism.
Mitt Romney's fundraising has skyrocketed since he became the de facto nominee, a top Romney fundraiser told The Hill Wednesday evening.

"People are coming out of the woodwork," said the fundraiser, who requested not to be named. "A number of my friends who didn't want to get involved in the primary are now coming off the sidelines for the general election."

...Romney's schedule is very heavy on fundraising appearances the next month, and if he continues to bring in $1 million or more at most stops he could quickly close the gap with obama in campaign money. Romney finished March with a bit more than $10 million in the bank after having to spend heavily in the primary, while Obama had $104 million cash on hand.

Romney and the RNC have a combined fundraising goal of $800 million, according to a memo obtained by the New York Times. That figure would likely mean Romney outspends Obama — and that doesn't factor in the Republican-aligned outside groups, which are expected to outspend their Democratic counterparts by large margins.
But how much of that sideline money will continue to pour in at the same pace? Given that the floodgates were shut, and they've finally opened you have to expect that there was a temporal displacement effect.   The people who were sitting on the sidelines waiting to hop in finally had their chance.  It's like Cash for Clunkers in reverse*.  That silly program pushed buyers forward in time to buy earlier than they had planned to save money.  In Romney's case, a number of people were clearly waiting to see the final (likely) nominee before sending in money that would get used in the primaries instead of the general election.  That effect will pass and the Romney donations should normalize.

If I were Romney, I would not depend on the predictions like this to materialize, and I would operate as if I were running with a financial disadvantage versus president Obama.  Any change in that likelihood should be regarded as an unexpected bonus, but not yet.  It's far to early for that.  Playing as if you are behind, no matter what the circumstances indicate, is the surest way to keep your eye on the ball and much more likely to result in success.  Stories that the Obama re-election team regard the Romney campaign as a joke may or may not be true, but if it is, it's a sure fire way to be taken by surprise. Several presidents from Reagan, to Clinton and even Obama were regarded by their opponents as easy fodder and turned out to be surprising 'upset' winners.

Romney would do himself a service by keeping up his fundraising, GOTV and campaigning efforts as if he were 10 points and tens of millions of dollars behind the president.  Let's hope he can do conservatives a service if he actually wins*.

*NOTE:  Any association between Clunkers and Romney is inferred by the reader and not necessarily implied...

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