Monday, July 02, 2007


Two-Person Race

Despite the rich deep field, the Democratic presidential race is two people: Hillary Rodham Clinton, a year ago, was expected. Freshmen senator Barack Obama -- despite his amazing 2004 convention speech -- couldn't have been. Yet, here he is, blowing away the field in the second fundraising quarter.

Just like in the first quarter, the two interesting keys here are: 1) Number of donors -- he's up to 250,000 (as reported last week) and, 2) Nearly all of his $32.5 million is primary money. Hillary hasn't revealed how much of her quarter fundraising is primary cash. My guess is that means close to one-third is only for the general election.

On Meet The Press Sunday, NBC's Chuck Todd observed:

And, you know, we’re going to get through this primary general, all this stuff. Maybe it’s only 22 million in primary money. It’s possible he, he might outraise her somewhere $10 million in primary money. What’s fascinating is in this first half of the year, clearly, you talk to the Clinton folks, you talk to sort of unbiased observers, say—will say, “Mrs. Clinton won the first half politically of this election season.” But financially Obama’s won it. He has caught up to her. He has made up the $10 million transfer that she had from her Senate account. It is—it is stunning.
MR. RUSSERT: And 250,000 donors.
MR. TODD: Two hundred and fifty thousand donors, which means, you know, which means that, you know, he can continue to sort of apparently be a little lackluster. I mean, I’m always struck at these debates how cautious he is. He’s afraid to, he’s afraid to go for a knockout. He’s afraid—he’s, he’s trying not to, he’s trying not to lose. He’s not trying to win yet.
That raises an interesting point. So many focus on how "cautious" and "scripted" Hillary is. But she's the one doing what is necessary to make major gains. And strangely, it's the debates -- i.e., where actual substance (even if it is reduced to soundbites) is on display -- that have caused Hillary to increase her polling lead over Obama (a point that Tavis Smiley conceded on MTP). So, again, the race is two people: While it is still Hillary's to lose, Obama's fundraising prowess means that he's got a larger margin of error than any other presidential sweepstakes rookie should expect -- assuming, of course, he isn't so foolish as to repeat Howard Dean's mistakes and burn through his cash before the votes are cast. (Actually, despite her own fundraising ability, Sen. Clinton had better watch her spending. She has a much larger operation -- costing a lot more -- than Obama's does.

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan dives further into Obama's amazing numbers (154,000 new donors)! It's funny, usually, the greater (and, by that, I don't mean "bigger") organization raises the most money, but that's not what's going on in this Democratic race. Hillary has both a bigger and, I would argue, a more efficient organization. But Obama's campaign has something else -- Barack Obama. And he may have an "it" factor that's never been seen before.

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