The Denver Host Committee, under a contractual deadline to raise $40.6 million by today for the Democratic National Convention in August, has confirmed it fell $11.6 million short of that amount. So, what now?

Barack Obama has raised $265 million for his campaign so far. Will he now assist the Host Committee in obtaining contributions for the convention?

The Obama campaign has broken all political fundraising records largely by mining the Internet for small contributions, collecting some $265 million. A fundraising pitch to those donors could vastly boost the convention’s fundraising, several observers said.

While the Host Committee is confident the money will be raised one way or another, Committee Co-Chair Steve Farber addressed that possibility today:

“There are discussions occurring. We could definitely use the help of the Obama campaign,” said Steve Farber, a Denver lawyer and leading member of the host committee. “The fact that we have a candidate now does help.”

Today in Michigan, Al Gore endorsed Sen. Obama. He even sent out an e-mail to readers of his own website asking them to contribute to Obama.

Maybe he should have asked his supporters to contribute to the convention, particularly since the Host Committee seems reluctant to ask the Obama campaign:

[Host Committee spokesman Chris] Lopez, the host committee’s spokesman, insisted the campaign would not be held responsible for making up any fundraising shortfall.

“Obama’s great for the party, and there’s a lot of love for him out there. But we can’t depend on that,” Lopez said. “We’re under contract to raise the money and we expect we’ll hit our target. It’s not on the senator or his campaign, it’s on us.” An Obama campaign spokesman, Bill Burton, referred all questions about the convention efforts to the host committee.

In recent elections, with the nominee chosen in advance of the convention, the convention chiefly has served as a vehicle to rally the delegates and introduce the nominee to the folks watching at home. The more excitement generated by the convention, the more enthusiastic voters will be in November, not just about voting for President, but for down-ticket Democrats as well.

There’s no question Sen. Obama will be the star and the chief beneficiary of the convention publicity. I think it would be of great help to him, and to the down-ticket candidates, if his campaign would turn some of its fundraising prowess to helping ensure the convention is the best it can be.

[Cross-posted at]