Troops contributingto Obama’s campaign

Published 9:35 pm Monday, September 8, 2008

By Staff
During World War II, soldiers crouching in foxholes penned letters assuring their sweethearts that they’d be home soon. Now, between firefights in the Iraqi desert, some infantrymen have been sending a different kind of mail stateside: $200 to $300 — or whatever they can spare — toward a presidential election that could very well determine just how soon they come home.
According to an analysis of campaign contributions by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, Democrat Barack Obama has received nearly six times as much money from troops deployed overseas at the time of their contributions as has Republican John McCain. The fiercely anti-war Ron Paul — though he suspended his campaign for the Republican nomination months ago — has received more than four times McCain’s haul.
Despite McCain’s status as a decorated veteran, and the historically Republican leanings among the military, members of the armed services overall — whether stationed overseas or at home — are favoring Obama with their campaign contributions in 2008 by a $55,000 margin. Although 59 percent of federal contributions by military personnel for all offices has gone to Republicans this cycle, of money to the presumed presidential nominees, 57 percent has gone to Obama. McCain’s campaign recently overtook Paul’s among all military donors, though Paul’s still leads with contributors listing an overseas address.
Individuals in the Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps have all generally leaned Republican this cycle, but the only branch in which that ideology has carried over to the presidential race is the Marine Corps, where McCain leads Obama by about $4,000. In each of the other branches — including the Navy, in which McCain served when he was taken prisoner during the Vietnam War — Obama leads by significant margins.
In 2000, Republican George W. Bush outraised Democrat Al Gore among military personnel almost 2-to-1. In 2004, with the Iraq war under way, John Kerry closed the gap with President Bush, but Bush still raised $1.50 from the military for every $1 his Democratic opponent collected.
A former West Point professor, Jason Dempsey, noted that the small set of contributions from deployed troops at this point in 2008 — just 323 donations — should not be extrapolated to form conclusions about military personnel overall. “If, on a bad day, a guy gets that letter that says [his tour has been extended] from 12 to 15 months, that could spur a quick donation and expression of anger,” he said. “Donating helps members of the military express their political views privately.”
Obama, who opposed the war in Iraq but was not in the Senate when it was authorized, has said that as president he would withdraw most troops from Iraq within about 16 months. McCain, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee and a staunch proponent of the Iraq war, has resisted setting a timeline for withdrawal.
CRP’s totals are limited to donors contributing more than $200, since information is not provided to the Federal Election Commission for smaller contributions. So these figures are likely to represent the mood of officers disproportionately. They have more disposable income to spend on politics than do the lower ranks.
Army Spc. Jay Navas contributed $250 while deployed in Iraq, but it wasn’t over the Internet. “It took some effort to get that check. I had my mom send me my checkbook, and I walked to the post office in Camp Liberty in Baghdad with an envelope addressed to Barack Obama in Chicago, Ill.,” he said. “Most of my friends are conservative Republicans, and they say, ‘I’m voting for Barack.’ McCain does not have a lock on the military vote, that’s for sure.”