Clinton Steps Up Appeals to Female Donors

By Matthew Mosk
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 6, 2007

Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton is increasingly banking on politically active women to keep her on pace with Sen. Barack Obama in the ongoing sprint for campaign cash.

Clinton is rolling out a series of events tailored to women, a group her campaign believes has great untapped fundraising potential, beginning last month with a New York waterfront concert headlined by singer-songwriter Vanessa Carlton and continuing last week with a luncheon in Los Angeles.

Her effort is being coupled with a fresh push by Emily's List, the nation's largest political action committee, which recently mailed its supporters and appealed to them to contribute to Clinton's campaign.

"I think women are going to be the foundation of her victory," said Ellen R. Malcolm, president of Emily's List, which supports female candidates. "These are people who are thrilled with the idea of electing a woman president."

The overture to women has intensified since Obama (Ill.) stunned Clinton loyalists by out-raising her among Democratic primary donors over the first three months of the year, with $23 million to Clinton's $19 million.

Clinton, the junior senator from New York, remains the overall money leader, but Obama is keeping the pressure on. Days after filing his first reports, Obama's campaign posted a note on his Web site boasting that more than 40,000 additional donors had already sent contributions through the Internet.

Though the primaries are more than eight months away, campaign strategists are viewing the next two months as a critical period for raising cash. By summer, vacationing donors will be harder to locate. In the fall, the candidates hope to devote more time to the intense voter contact required to win support in New Hampshire and Iowa.

Clinton held a meeting of her top money-raisers in Washington last week, with a break-out session devoted to her plans to reach out to women. Susie Tompkins Buell, co-founder of the fashion giant Esprit and a major Clinton fundraiser, shared the results of a survey she helped underwrite that showed that 27 percent of political dollars come from women.

"We are determined to adjust that," Tompkins Buell said. "We looked at women and their giving -- what inhibits them, what inspires them. Women have the capability. They're ready. We just have to give them the opportunity."

The Women's Campaign Forum conducted the survey, doing extensive polling and working with focus groups to try to understand why women do not give more, and how they can change that.

What the group found, said President Ilana Goldman, is that there is "an enormous opportunity to engage women in acting financially in the political realm. It's not a lack of interest, passion or financial capacity. We just need to talk to women in a different way."

Clinton may be uniquely positioned to alter the trend. A Washington Post-ABC News poll last month showed her lead within the Democratic field is far wider among women. And a Post analysis of itemized donations from the first quarter shows that contributions from women made up 36 percent of Clinton's total, while women made up about 30 percent of Obama's donors. All other candidates combined got 15 percent of their contributions from women.

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