LB Jeffries -> Clinton Concerned by Obama Strength (31/3/2007 4:06:00 PM)
From the New York Times:
Concerns Grow In Clinton Camp About Obama Fundraising Strength
Concerned about Senator Barack Obama’s presidential fund-raising, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign has dispatched former President Bill Clinton to attend 16 fund-raisers in the last six weeks and to lead conference calls and Internet appeals to donors, in some cases assessing Mr. Obama’s positions on Iraq.
Democrats close to the couple say that Mr. Clinton’s efforts on his wife’s behalf were just beginning and that they were likely to accelerate after he finishes writing a book this spring. Several donors said that Mr. Clinton’s role was even greater than they originally expected after Mrs. Clinton announced her candidacy on Jan. 20.
The early deployment of Mr. Clinton highlights the continuing concerns in the Clinton camp about the strength of Mr. Obama’s candidacy and his fund-raising prowess. The Clinton camp has tried to stop any drift of Democratic donors to the Obama camp, since the campaign finance reporting period ending tonight is seen as a huge test of the campaigns’ money-raising abilities as they gird for a crush of early primaries.
When Mrs. Clinton announced for the presidency in January, the former president was mentioned in meetings as one of several fund-raising surrogates for her.
In short time, he helped raise about $2 million at small dinner parties in Manhattan, sometimes staying far later into the night than planned, and is now ending March with a flourish. After a gala last night headlined by Mrs. Clinton that raised $1 million, Mr. Clinton was scheduled to join her for a cocktail party this evening with the music producer Timbaland in Miami, and a second party where event chairmen were hoping to raise $100,000 each.
Even as Mr. Clinton pursues his tasks with gusto, Clinton donors and Democratic allies say that the campaign has also been sensitive about using him too much, for fear that he might overshadow his wife or come to be seen as an overused or exploited asset.
This sensitivity has been evident recently. While Mr. Clinton’s schedule has been hectic at times, with some days layered with two fund-raisers, Clinton advisers have tried to minimize his role and his desire to trounce Mr. Obama in fund-raising for the first three months of 2007.
Still, John Catsimatidis, a New York fund-raiser who held an event at his apartment with Mr. Clinton on March 3, recalled that at a meeting of fund-raisers in Manhattan soon after Senator Clinton’s announcement, the former president came up briefly in conversation and was not a focus of the fund-raising strategy. But his recent burst of money-raising tells a different story.
“It’s a lot more than anyone expected two months ago,” Mr. Catsimatidis said. “President Clinton is a competitive guy, and he has said himself that the March 31 fund-raising deadline was the first primary.”
The Clintons’ fund-raising zeal, however, has left some donors bristling. Jim Neal, a North Carolina investment banker who supported Gen. Wesley K. Clark and then, in 2004, Senator John Kerry, said he was alienated by the effort “to put absolutely unprecedented expectations and pressure on donors,” like proposing that some fund-raisers would yield more than $1 million for Mrs. Clinton.
“It’s almost like a shakedown — you’re either with us or you’re not,” said Mr. Neal, who participated in an early conference call involving the Clinton campaign chairman, Terry McAuliffe, but is not seen as a major player in the Clintons’ world.
“I just find the squeeze, this early, to be quite vulgar,” Mr. Neal added. “This idea that you should try to K.O. other candidates by simply overwhelming them with the amount of money you have in the bank. It’s a bullying tactic.”
Mr. Neal said he supported Mr. Clinton in 1992 and 1996, but did not plan to support Mrs. Clinton.
A spokeswoman for Mr. McAuliffe and campaign officials declined to respond to Mr. Neal’s comments.
With tonight’s fund-raising deadline comes major questions for Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama about the size of their war chests, their ability to raise money online and nationwide, and what advantage, if any, Mr. Obama enjoys among antiwar Democrats, with whom he is popular.
Mrs. Clinton, as a veteran of her husband’s two campaigns and her own two Senate races in New York, started off with a far larger donor database and greater name recognition than Mr. Obama, of Illinois, and she had been widely expected to do significantly better than him in fund-raising for this period.
One donor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he said the Clintons would not like his speaking openly, said the Clinton campaign had been trying to lower fund-raising expectations because of a concern about a surge by Mr. Obama, who has shown broad appeal among black, female and young Democrats and has captured some big-money donors like Orin Kramer, a former Clinton supporter.
“The Clintons thought the nomination would most likely be theirs, barring some major disaster, and they are having to work harder and earlier for the nomination than either Clinton expected,” said the donor, who said he had talked about Mr. Obama with Mr. Clinton. “This was not how things were supposed to go, and they are obsessed with beating Barack in fund-raising.”
At some fund-raisers, Mr. Clinton viewed part of his job as “explaining Hillary and Barack” to donors, in the words of one fund-raiser who talked to him — laying out the rivals’ positions on Iraq, for instance, in a manner that minimized their differences and made Mr. Obama appear less-than-consistently antiwar.
On a recent conference call with donors, too, Mr. Clinton gave a point-by-point analysis of the candidates’ positions on the war in Iraq.
Jay Carson, Mr. Clinton’s communications director, who is also a member of Senator Clinton’s campaign, was asked in an interview if Mr. Clinton was motivated at all by Mr. Obama’s candidacy or by voters’ comparisons of the rivals on Iraq.
“He quite obviously believes that his wife is the best candidate, would make the best president, and he is focused on making sure that people understand that,” Mr. Carson said.
Obama campaign officials said that Mr. Obama’s opposition to the war has been consistent from the start, and that his success at fund-raising has less to do with famous surrogates than with the appeal of his message.
“The Obama campaign isn’t about dollars raised,” said Bill Burton, a spokesman. “It’s about the thousands of people who have shown they want to get involved and be part of this effort to transform our nation.”
Officials in the Obama and Clinton campaigns expect each of them to raise far more than past candidates for the Democratic nomination in comparable time periods — the $9 million that Vice President Al Gore raised in the first quarter of 1999, and the $7.4 million that former Senator John Edwards of North Carolina raised in that period in 2003.
While any predictions are extremely unreliable and subject to the campaigns’ expectations-setting, the Obama and Clinton camps expect to double those amounts at the least, Democrats close to them say.
Mrs. Clinton, as a former first lady and a two-term senator, has a far larger database of donors than does Mr. Obama, who was first elected in 2004. Clinton advisers say she has more than 250,000 people in her database, while Mr. Obama’s campaign Web site says he has about 78,000.
In interviews, several donors, fund-raisers and advisers in and around the campaign expressed genuine concern that the size of Mrs. Clinton’s fund-raising margin over Mr. Obama may not be as great as donors initially expected in the early, exuberant days of her candidacy in late January and early February.
At the same time, donors and Democratic allies say they have not seen Mr. Clinton so engaged politically in years — suggesting countless ideas to his wife and two top campaign officials, Mr. McAuliffe and Mark Penn, her chief strategist and Mr. Clinton’s former pollster, and enthusiastically taking questions and staying late at her fund-raisers even after attending hundreds of these sorts of events for years.
“What’s interesting is how on time he is, how into it he is, and how late he stays,” said Robert Zimmerman, a New York fund-raiser for Mrs. Clinton. “He is into this heart and soul.”
Mr. Zimmerman added, only half-jokingly, “I don’t remember him being so on time when he ran.”