In a sign of just how nervous senior Democrats are about Barack Obama's situation, top Democratic Party operatives are privately urging the party's major donors to get serious about putting big money into outside groups looking to attack John McCain in key battleground states.

Several senior Democratic strategists unaffiliated with Obama's campaign convened a private conference call late last week with at least four dozen of the party's most prolific donors to progressive causes and outside groups -- a call designed to instill a sense among donors that things are "pretty damn urgent" right now, one of the organizers of the call tells me.

The call is yet another sign that donors and outside operatives -- who had earlier gotten the message from Obama that he doesn't want such activity -- now recognize that Team Obama is privately hoping for such efforts to gear up in earnest.

On the call, Stan Greenberg, who did polling for Bill Clinton in 1992 and now partners with James Carville to run the Dem polling firm Democracy Corps, gave a presentation to the donors that painted a somewhat bleak picture of the struggles Obama is having with aging white women in battleground states.

Greenberg and other Dem operatives on the call discussed various messages to target this constituency, and batted around various ideas for contrast ads that could be used to pull these voters away from McCain and to Obama. Also on the call: Anna Greenberg, Stan's daughter and a leading

Dem operative in her own right. The Greenbergs couldn't immediately be reached.

"The call was organized to let donors know that things are pretty serious and that if something is going to happen, it needs to happen fast," Dem operative Mike Lux, president of the Dem firm Progressive Strategies and one of the call's organizers, tells me.

"The message was that it's pretty damn urgent," continued Lux, who played a key role in raising money for outside groups in 2004. "We said we think that dramatic things need to happen."

Sources familiar with the call say there were more than 50 major donors or their reps on the call, most if not all of whom have a history of writing six-figure checks to Dem party committees or outside efforts.

Interestingly, there's little talk right now of forming a new vehicle for such ad spending. Instead, the Dem operatives on the call urged donors to seriously consider putting big money into existing groups that are starting to organize or advertise in key states.

Among them: Working America, a labor-backed group which has hundreds of thousands of members in Ohio and other industrial states, Planned Parenthood, the Association for Retired Americans, Women's Voices Women's Votes, and other such organizations.

One outstanding question -- will the billionaires who bankrolled such efforts four years ago, such as George Soros and Steve Bing, put serious cash into the race this time around?

According to Lux, donors on the call seemed to grasp the sense of urgency. "Judging from the feedback we got on the call," he said, "the donors are serious about this and realize the importance of all this and that they need to do something sooner rather than later."
TPM Election Central | Talking Points Memo | Top Democrats Privately Urging Major Donors To Fund Outside Groups To Attack McCain