Barack Obama's rapid fund-raising pace has forced Hillary Clinton to dip into her personal wealth and lend her campaign $5 million to keep up as the race for the Democratic presidential nomination enters a critical new phase.
Clinton confirmed the loan yesterday, calling it a "wise investment" after Super Tuesday contests in 22 states left the race deadlocked. The campaign now heads into a two-week period when nine more states will elect delegates in a stretch of the calendar that even Clinton partisans acknowledge favors Obama.
"The loan illustrates Sen. Clinton's commitment to this effort and to ensuring that our campaign has the resources it needs to compete and win across this nation," her spokesman, Howard Wolfson, said in an e-mail. The campaign "had one of our best fundraising efforts ever on the web today," he said, amid reports that some senior staffers on her campaign are voluntarily forgoing paychecks as the campaign heads into the next round of contests.
As Clinton and Obama were splitting the early-voting states, Obama's campaign said it raised $32 million in January, $28 million of that from online donations. That's more than it had raised in any three-month period last year. Clinton's campaign said it took in $13.5 million during the same period. Both campaigns collected more than $100 million in 2007, but ended the year with relatively modest amounts in the bank for use in the primaries - about $12 million for Obama and $15 million for Clinton.
Obama enjoys key financial advantages going forward - a high percentage of Clinton donors have already donated the $2,300 maximum and the Obama campaign says it has 400,000 individuals who have donated money online, mostly in very small amounts and often more than once.
Earlier yesterday, during a conference call, Clinton campaign strategist Mark Penn told reporters: "We believe we will have the funds to compete; no question we're likely to be outspent again just as we were outspent yesterday." Obama outspent Clinton by at least $2 million in advertising in Super Tuesday states and has put up early advertising in many of the upcoming states.
On Saturday, the battle moves to the Washington and Nebraska caucuses and the Louisiana primary, with its large African-American electorate. Caucuses will be held in Maine on Sunday. Obama has dominated Clinton in caucus contests thus far. The Clinton campaign, which has been slower than Obama's to establish a presence in Washington state, moved more than 20 paid staffers there this week, hoping to capture the weekend's biggest prize of 78 delegates.
Even before the results from California came in late Tuesday, top Clinton fund-raisers were beginning to cobble together a plan to expand the campaign's donor base and raise funds quickly.
As the likelihood of a knockout blow has faded and the contest becomes a grinding struggle for every delegate, the challenge for both campaigns is now to compete in every state. The votes, in the near term, will come in clusters - four this weekend; three (Virginia, Maryland, District of Columbia) next Tuesday; and two on Feb. 19 (Wisconsin and Hawaii).
Money could be a major factor in determining the outcome of the cluster of four contests that follows on March 4, the second-biggest day after Super Tuesday for delegates on the Democrats' calendar to reach the 2,025 delegates needed for the nomination. On that day, primaries with a combined 370 pledged delegates at stake will be held in four states - Texas (193), Ohio (141), Rhode Island (21), and Vermont (15).
With a break in the calendar, however, it will cost a campaign about $5.6 million to run a modest level of TV ads in all four states for two weeks - about $1.6 million per week in 18 Texas markets; $930,000 a week in Ohio's nine markets; $165,000 in Providence; and $85,000 in Burlington, Vt.