By John Solomon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 2, 2007
Sen. Barack Obama raised $31 million for his presidential primary campaign over the past three months, surging past Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's fundraising machine by nearly $10 million for the quarter to take the lead in contributions in the crowded Democratic field.
Obama became the first Democrat to surpass $30 million in a quarter during a non-election year, a feat his campaign said was accomplished not just with help from wealthy, traditional donors but also with a strong showing among small contributors.
The Illinois senator trails Clinton in most polls, but the favorable performance reported yesterday is expected to increase the pressure on Clinton's team. Obama was able to outrun Clinton, of New York, even after she began turning for fundraising help to her husband, Bill Clinton, the most prolific money-raiser in Democratic history. The former president will join his wife today in Iowa for their first high-profile joint campaign appearance.
Although thrilled by the financial performance, Obama's campaign yesterday sought to temper expectations with a note to supporters predicting that the candidate is unlikely to overtake Clinton in the polls before the Iowa caucuses early next year.
"One of our opponents is also the quasi-incumbent in the race, who in our belief will and should lead just about every national poll from now until the Iowa caucuses. Expect nothing different and attach no significance to it," campaign manager David Plouffe wrote.
In addition to Obama's haul for the primary, he collected $1.5 million for the general election, for a total of $32.5 million raised over the past three months.
Clinton's campaign announced late last week that it would raise $27 million to $28 million for the second quarter, but campaign aides said yesterday that slightly more than $21 million was in primary donations.
Clinton took in the most money during the first three months of the campaign and is expected to have about the same amount in the bank as Obama when they formally file their second-quarter fundraising reports in mid-July. That's because she transferred about $10 million to her presidential bid in money left over from her Senate campaign.
Among other Democrats, former senator John Edwards (N.C.) finished third in the fundraising race this quarter, meeting his $9 million goal after a last-minute appeal from his wife, Elizabeth Edwards, that played off of controversial remarks by conservative television commentator Ann Coulter. Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico was not far behind, raising $7 million for the quarter.
Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (Conn.) raised $3.25 million for the second quarter, giving him $12.25 million this year.
On the Republican side, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney told his fundraising team on Friday that their second-quarter haul fell short of the $21 million raised in the first quarter, leaving an opening for former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani to take the second-quarter fundraising lead. Giuliani is expected to announce his numbers today or Tuesday.
Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) was hoping to finish third, with a total between $10 million and $15 million.
Obama's performance was built on the strength of 154,000 new contributors, giving him well over a quarter-million donors since he started the race.
The vast majority of Obama's donors gave in relatively small amounts, the campaign said, meaning they can be tapped several more times. The average donation was $202; individual donors can give up to $2,300 under the law.
"He has the unique ability to inspire people to do things they've never done before, and that makes it so much easier to raise money when people are excited," said Kirk Dornbush, Obama's fundraising chief in the South.
Dornbush recounted how an elderly woman came up to him at a booth during an Obama speech in April, reached into her purse and pulled out 55 cents. Dornbush said he objected to taking the woman's last few cents as a political donation, "but she just grabbed the clipboard from my hands and started filling out the paperwork, telling me, 'I want to do my part.' "
Obama campaign officials confirmed that several people gave pocket change as donations during that event.
Although Obama's second-quarter haul set an off-year election mark for Democrats, it fell well short of the best fundraising tallies ever. President Bush holds the record for a non-election year, collecting $50 million between July 1 and Sept. 30, 2003, when he was running mostly uncontested in the GOP primary.
Kerry holds the record for an election year, collecting $44 million in March 2004 after he had essentially secured the Democratic nomination.