It is a timely tool that will allow the president to appeal to small donors and young donors in a way that could potentially change the way that political campaigns operate—though it’s doubtful whether the technology will work to close the fundraising advantage that Republican challenger Mitt Romney has enjoyed in recent months.
The Obama campaign said it is in the midst of completing agreements with Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel Corp, U.S. Cellular and T-Mobile USA to allow the text money to begin to flow. AT&T, the second largest carrier after Verizon, and others would be on line “in the near future,” according to the campaign.
The campaign said that voters will soon start to see messages urging them “to contribute $10 to Obama for America, text GIVE to 62262.”
Observers expect Romney’s campaign to soon follow suit with its own contribution code of 466488, but the campaign has yet to make any announcements.
This will go down as the most expensive U.S. election in history by far, with both sides already raising hundreds of millions of dollars. Since the Obama campaign has raised far more money than the Romney campaign through small donations, the text message capability is expected to be a bigger boon to the president.
Last year, Pew Research released a study showing that among all U.S. adult texters, African Americans and Latinos used text messaging the most. Since both groups are among Obama’s most enthusiastic supporters, the president clearly hopes to capitalize on the synergy of giving them the option to text him money.
“As we push through the last 100 days of this election,” the Obama campaign said on Thursday, “we remain focused on making this campaign as accessible as possible to the small-dollar donors that are the heart and soul of our organization.”
As it currently stands, text donations, which can be made anonymously, must be capped at $10 per text, $50 per month and $200 in total for one candidate or campaign. Donations are prohibited from foreigners, people under 18 or corporations, which could also mean corporate phone accounts.
The United States has more than 330 million wireless service subscribers. Almost nine in 10 U.S. adults have at least one cell phone line and about three-quarters of those use text messaging, according to the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.