To really open donors’ wallets, however, may take a new surge of emotional connection to the campaign, and those closely following the race say they can’t be sure if — or when — it will come.

“Online fundraising is driven by big moments,” said Patrick Ruffini, a Republican consultant who has studied Obama’s results in 2008 and whose views were echoed by senior Democrats who declined to speak on the record.

“No campaign had more big moments than 2008 — first, the process of catching Hillary [Clinton], then the breakthrough win in Iowa, then five months of primaries with huge TV buys and finally the Sarah Palin VP nomination and the sprint to the finish.

“An incumbent presidential campaign simply won’t have as many big moments or the same urgency,” Ruffini said. “There’s no primary, and the president himself probably won’t engage in the campaign until next summer. The Internet is better suited to insurgency rather than incumbency.”

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