On April Fool’s Day Sen. Hillary Clinton (D.-N.Y.) announced she was the self-declared winner of the so-called “money primary.” Only a few days later, in a brilliant display of political timing, Sen. Barack Obama (D.-Ill.) showed the joke was on Clinton.
On April 1 Hillary’s campaign triumphantly reported that between January 1 and March 31 they had raised a record-breaking $36 million. Although impressive, those numbers were inflated by the inclusion of $10 million leftover from her 2006 midterm election that was shifted to her presidential campaign fund.
For three days, her numbers dominated the news cycle while some other totals rolled in. The former Massachusetts Gov. and GOP candidate Mitt Romney took second place tallying $23 million. Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards (D.) reported a third-place $14 million finish.
Meanwhile, the Obama team stayed quiet, kept their dollars close to the chest and patiently waited for Hillary’s big news to deflate. Then, on April 4 the one-term Illinois Senator told the press he had raised $25 million — only one million less than the former First Lady who had more than a decade’s worth of rolodexes and professional money-squeezing experience.
Trying to keep the focus on Hillary, former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe (who heads Hillary’s fundraising operations) asserted “She’s [Hillary] won the first primary — the money primary — and now people are going to focus right back on all the issues.”
Then, ABC News revealed Obama’s primary cash numbers bested Hillary’s once cycled through campaign finance restrictions.
Because donors are only permitted to donate $2,300 towards a candidate’s primary election, anything over that amount is rolled to a separate fund for the general election with a total cap of $4,600. Since Obama courted more low-dollar donors, who did not give more than $2,300 each, more of his dollars could be used against Hillary in a primary. Hillary solicited more high-dollar donors, who gave more than $2,300. As a result, more of her money had to be put into a general election fund that could not be immediately accessed.
Obama raised $23.5 million in primary dollars total. ABC News said their sources told them Hillary would report approximately $20 million in primary cash.
McAuliffe immediately backpedaled from his previous remarks. “Ultimately, forget the money,” he told ABC News. “You’ve got to get votes. And right now Hillary wins that category. She wins every single poll today.”
Hillary might be ahead in the polls for now. Real Clear Politics currently has Hillary at 34.7% and Obama at 22.1%, but Obama convinced more people to donate to his campaign. Hillary’s $26 million haul came from 50,000 different donors. Obama raised his $25 million from more than 100,000 donors.
Obama’s fundraising is even more impressive because he declined to accept any money from political action committees or lobbyists. The final Federal Election Commission reports will be made available on April 15 and it’s very likely Hillary accepted a large amount of “bundled” money from PACs and lobbyists. Last week, the feminist National Organization for Women’s PAC endorsed Hillary, guaranteeing a steady flow of checks to her coffers from their group.
Additionally, more of Obama’s donations came in through less labor intensive online donations. He raised $6.9 million over the internet, while Hillary brought in $5.2 million online. And, because Obama’s donors gave less per person, it’s more likely they will donate again later. The average Obama donor contributed $250 each. Hillary’s average contributor donated $520 each.
Mrs. Clinton didn’t lose the money primary for lack of trying. When rumors started to rumble mid-February that Obama’s fundraising was going particularly well, she dispatched hubby Bill to at least 16 fundraisers in the final six weeks before the March 31 first quarter deadline. Hillary even let him speak to a predominately female spin class as long as the participants paid $2,300 each to hear him while they worked out. (Large t-shirts were provided to cover the women’s sexy, tight-fitting workout gear, though.) While fundraising in Manhattan he managed to rake in $2 million in one of the six weeks.
But while dialing for dollars on a March 23 conference call the former President let it slip just worried the Clinton camp is about Obama’s candidacy.
Bill whined that it was “unfair” Obama had become the left’s antiwar candidate. This is largely based on Hillary’s 2002 vote to authorize the President to use force in Iraq and her support of the war in its early years.
When a caller asked about Mrs. Clinton’s position on the war Bill began, “I don’t have a problem with anything Barack Obama has said on this” but “to characterize Hillary and Obama’s positions on the war as polar opposites is ludicrous.”
“This dichotomy that’s been set up to allow him to become the raging hero of the anti-war crowd on the Internet is factually inaccurate,” Bill told supporters. “It’s just not fair to say that people who voted for the resolution wanted war.”
After financing two White House elections for Mr. Clinton, two Senate election races for Mrs. Clinton and putting up $7.3 billion worth of commitments to the Clinton Global Initiative, it’s probable that Democrat donors are just sick of making checks out to Bill and Hill.
Considering the numerous advantages Hillary had over Obama in fundraising capacity, his success is sure to be sending chills through her campaign. Even with her expert schmoozer and former President husband, her army of operatives and hordes of loyal Clintonistas, Obama beat her to the primary punch.
In the short-term Obama’s stunt will spread goodwill through the far-left base that’s unhappy with Hillary’s chickenhawk war stance, but the afterglow won’t last long. If there’s anything the Clintons take seriously, it’s being best at taking other people’s money. Undoubtedly, Hillary will redouble her fundraising efforts. And, when she’s ready to dismantle Obama’s campaign once and for all, he won’t be laughing anymore.