By Matthew Mosk and John Solomon
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, January 1, 2008
Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton each surpassed the $100 million fundraising mark for their presidential campaigns in 2007, according to people directly familiar with their finance operations, the first time two candidates have eclipsed that milestone before a single primary vote was cast.
The two Democrats have set a breakneck fundraising pace for the crowded presidential race since the beginning of 2007, in a contest defined by the pursuit of both wealthy donors and newcomers lured to make smaller contributions through the Internet.
"It's unprecedented," said Michael S. Berman, a campaign veteran who organized fundraising for former vice president Walter F. Mondale's 1984 Democratic campaign. "What we did, it's not even relevant anymore. The amounts just keep growing. I don't know if there is an upper limit."
Aides to the Democratic front-runners did not say yesterday how much cash they had remaining to spend, as last-minute donations were still being tallied.
Both will still fall short of President Bush's record for money raised in a non-election year -- $131.8 million in 2003, when he ran virtually unopposed for the Republican nomination -- but the success of Clinton (N.Y.) and Obama (Ill.) differs in that it came during one of the most crowded and competitive presidential races in history.
On the Republican side of the ledger, the most striking development in the latter part of 2007 was the staggering haul for Rep. Ron Paul, the maverick Texan who was the Libertarian Party's presidential candidate in 1988. While other Republicans have lagged well behind the Democratic front-runners this year, Paul saw money gush in through the Internet and brought in $20 million over the past three months. Candidates closed the books on their 2007 fundraising at midnight.
Paul's take offers a striking example of the technology's strengths and limitations for a candidate with a strong appeal to a relatively narrow band of voters. While it put him among the top fundraising performers, he continues to lag well behind in polls.
"You can't escape it -- anyone who has toiled in the trenches of fundraising would agree that the performance by Ron Paul is absolutely miraculous," said Philip A. Musser, a Republican campaign consultant. "But the real story of the Internet this year is the way all of these candidates have tried to leverage their potential online."
Most of the candidates declined to release their year-end fundraising totals, which must be reported to the Federal Election Commission by Jan. 31.
Advisers to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said yesterday that his campaign has regained its financial footing over the past three months. The same holds true for GOP candidate and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, whose Web site reports that he has raised more than $5 million online since the end of September.
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, one of the fundraising front-runners among Republicans, was expected to raise $6 million to $10 million in the final quarter. He is supplementing contributions with millions of dollars of his own money.
Former senator John Edwards (D-N.C.), who has already qualified for $9 million in public matching funds, reported yesterday that between 11 a.m. and noon his operation took in more money online than in any previous hour of the campaign.
The campaign of Edwards, who has moved into a virtual tie for the lead in the Iowa caucuses, raised between $4 million and $5 million for the quarter, according to a person with direct knowledge who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the numbers. The infusion of taxpayer-subsidized matching funds he will get because he accepted public financing -- unlike his two main rivals -- will leave him with a total for the year of about $44 million. But the decision to accept those funds also limits him to spending no more than about $41 million before the national party conventions at the end of August.
Campaign manager Joe Trippi said this weekend that if Edwards wins Iowa's caucuses, the campaign is banking on a surge in fundraising -- just like the one Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) experienced four years ago when he won Iowa and began collecting as much as $2 million a day in fresh donations.
People familiar with Clinton's fundraising, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the numbers, confirmed that she collected more than $20 million in donations this quarter, pushing her well past the $100 million mark.
Clinton had raised $80 million from contributors through the end of September and transferred an additional $10 million in leftover funds from her Senate campaign. Her fundraising was boosted in recent months by the efforts of her husband, former president Bill Clinton.
The Obama campaign offered its finance assessment in a PowerPoint presentation that campaign manager David Plouffe gave to supporters yesterday.
"At least $100 million will be necessary to fully compete in the first 26 states," Plouffe said in his presentation. "Obama will have the financial resources." People familiar with his fundraising confirmed that Obama had already surpassed the $100 million mark in combined primary and general election contributions.
Through the first nine months of 2007, Obama raised $76 million for the primaries. More than a quarter of that money came in contributions of $200 or less, much of it online. Unlike former Vermont governor Howard Dean, the 2004 Democratic primary candidate who helped revolutionize the way presidential candidates use the Internet to raise money, Obama combined the technology with an effort to build a more traditional network of wealthy donors.
Paul, on the other hand, produced his $20 million almost entirely over the Internet. In two record-shattering days during the past quarter, he pulled in $4.2 million and then an additional $6 million. "It tells us there is tremendous grass-roots support out there," said Paul campaign spokesman Jesse Benton.