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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The Democratic Cash Competition

On Saturday, after Sen. Clinton wrapped up her remarks at the Virginia Jefferson-Jackson dinner, her spokesman – Phil Singer — gathered reporters around him and released some fundraising numbers. Since Super Tuesday, he said, more than 100,000 of Hillary Clinton’s supporters had contributed more than $10 million to the campaign.
To this point, her money strategy had been aggressively traditional. Her fundraisers seemed to have successfully twisted the arms of every high dollar donor in the country. By December, she’d raised more early money than any other presidential candidate in history; but at the same time, many of her donors were had hit the contribution limit, or “maxed out.”
Then the real nomination contest actually started.
As people began voting, the campaigns increased their spending. Just before 24 states went to the polls on Super Tuesday, the Obama campaign announced that they had raised a jaw-dropping $32 million in the month of January. The next day, as reporters tried to sort through delegate counts, the Clinton camp quietly acknowledged that the senator had loaned her campaign $5 million the week before. If necessary, they said, she was prepared to put up even more personal cash to keep on going.
The national media quickly judged this as a warning sign. Facing a rough calendar between February 5 and March 4 (when Texas and Ohio seem like states where she will do well), some began asking how much she would be willing to spend and whether she would have the resources keep going if losses began to mount.
In her speech on Super Tuesday, however, Clinton did something new — she mentioned her website and asked voters directly to visit HillaryClinton.com. The combination of those two things — the seeming desperation of the personal loan and the explicit appeal to visit her website – appears to have triggered a small donor chain reaction. In the first 24 hours after Super Tuesday, the campaign reported a haul of a haul of $4 million. Since then, the Clinton camp happily tells us that this well of support does not appear to have bottom.
Some who watch the money race were astounded by this development, but frankly, there is nothing surprising in these numbers. The simple fact that a lot of smart people forget is this — Hillary Clinton’s supporters are just as passionate about their candidate as those of Barack Obama.
That essential truth has been reflected in every national and state poll in this race — even as Obama’s support climbs, hers does not waver. That’s been obvious on the electoral front, from NH to CA. But it’s also been manifested on the money front, where women and men all across the country have continued to see her candidacy as an inspiring, historic moment in American history.
In this click-to-give internet era, that is fundraising magic, as her rival has shown so well. All the new Clinton donors needed, it appears, was a reason to give. Somehow, with her traditional donor success and frontrunner status, Hillary Clinton was forgetting to ask these people to support her. But that moment of vulnerability seems to have changed all that — these small donors are buying into her campaign and making it their own. Unlike her old contributors, they are much less likely to abandon her if the campaign stumbles in Texas or Pennsylvania.
Barack Obama hasn’t released any numbers since Wednesday, when his staff said that the campaign had raised another $7.9 million. On a call with reporters over the weekend, they maintained that their fundraising totals were still ahead of hers. But just a week ago, it looked like Obama would have a decisive money advantage going forward. Now it’s likely that both campaigns will have the resources to keep going for as long as this race lasts. And if both money machines can somehow be merged, the eventual Democratic general election campaign is going to be exceptionally well-heeled.

2 comments on “The Democratic Cash Competition

  1. Matt on

    No doubt her campaign has been weakened, but for about 24 hours, it looked like the campaign would be waiting for the Clintons’ stimulus package check to arrive in the mail before they could run ads in Pennsylvania.
    Her position is certainly stronger from what it was then.

  2. C.B. on

    Hillary’s money problems hurt her in Super Tuesday and her ability to be competitive in the lead up to subsequent February primaries.
    She may now have enough to prepare for and compete in the March primaries, but she will have lost a lot of political capital in the meantime, not to mention pledged delegates. Being able to go the distance may not be enough to win. In other words, the damage to her campaign has already been done.


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