Iowa Winners Woo Opponents' Donors

Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama arrives to address a campaign rally in Portsmouth, N.H., after his win in the Iowa caucuses.
Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama arrives to address a campaign rally in Portsmouth, N.H., after his win in the Iowa caucuses. (By M. Spencer Green -- Associated Press)
By Matthew Mosk
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 5, 2008

Shortly after securing first place in Iowa's Democratic caucuses and giving an impassioned victory speech, Sen. Barack Obama dialed up some of his rivals' top financial backers. "The game plan . . . was to try to use the great victory we had last night to get new donors," said Mark Gilbert, a member of Obama's finance team.

If history is any guide, Obama and Republican Mike Huckabee will draw not only political momentum from their Iowa victories, but also a deluge of money. Four years ago, Democratic contender John F. Kerry raised $2 million in the three months leading up to his Iowa caucus victory; in the subsequent three weeks, he raised $5.2 million.

This year, those extra funds will help Obama and Huckabee purchase needed television ads in such key states as California, Illinois, New Jersey and New York, a major advantage under the accelerated primary calendar that forces candidates to compete throughout the country over the next four weeks.

The candidates collectively burned up more than $40 million on Iowa television alone, with Obama spending about $9 million, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton about $7.2 million, and John Edwards $3.2 million, according to Evan Tracey, the head of TNS Media Intelligence/CMAG, which follows campaign television advertising.

Tracey said the campaigns will spend more than $26 million on television in New Hampshire, and "no campaign is going to have money to touch all of the Feb. 5 states."

Obama and Huckabee headed into the Iowa caucuses at opposite ends of the money spectrum. Obama raised more than $100 million over the past year, while Huckabee entered the last fundraising quarter of 2007 with $650,000 in the bank.

But during an early-morning interview on Fox News, Huckabee said his campaign Web site "became one of the most-hit Web sites last night. And we started seeing a huge surge, several hundred thousand dollars raised online after the caucuses." The site reported more than $362,000 in contributions as of last night.

Obama's national finance team held a conference call yesterday morning to map its search for fresh donors. They decided to contact backers of Sens. Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Christopher J. Dodd, who dropped out of the race Wednesday night. And they also decided to reach out to trial lawyers that had backed Edwards and Biden, with an appeal that they hedge their bets through contributions to Obama.

Joseph W. Cotchett, a San Francisco Bay Area trial lawyer and longtime Edwards supporter received one such call, and said he knew of others who had been called. "It's absolutely clear that, as a result of Iowa, lots of calls are being made to try and move people over," Cotchett said. "I personally believe our people are staying with John Edwards. But clearly there is now an inclination to look to Obama as one of their brothers."

Thomas V. Girardi, a Los Angeles trial lawyer and longtime Edwards supporter, also said he was approached. He said he does not believe that writing checks to other candidates should be viewed as a sign that Edwards's supporters are abandoning him. "At the end of the day, we're in desperate need of a win," Girardi said.

Robert Wolf, chairman and chief executive of UBS Group for the Americas and a member of Obama's national finance team, said Dodd and Biden supporters in the New York investment world were also on the long call sheets from which he worked on the day after Obama's victory.

"We were making a lot of calls today to those people who have not maxed out, to those who have said they want to get involved, to those who sent us congratulatory notes," Wolf said. "These folks were from all different walks, whether from other candidates or people who have been on the sidelines completely, or even from some Republicans who have come our way."

Girardi said he understands why the Obama campaign would be making the appeal. "All these people spent so much money in Iowa," he said. "All of a sudden, they see California and New York on the horizon. I think all of them are saying, 'Hey, we need more money.' "

M. Myers Mermel, Huckabee's New York state finance co-chairman, described fielding a stream of calls from potential new donors that began Thursday night. "It's been phenomenal," Mermel said. "There are people I have been calling for months who would not take my calls. Those calls are all being returned."

Scott Reed, a Republican consultant, said the money bounce from Iowa is likely to help Obama more than Huckabee, because Huckabee's position in the Republican field remains uncertain. Both Mitt Romney and Sen. John McCain have polled well ahead of Huckabee in New Hampshire, and Rudolph W. Giuliani remains a well-financed opponent.

But Huckabee's supporters said their candidate knows what it is like to run from a financial disadvantage. He was heavily outspent in Iowa, and with the money he has started to raise since Thursday, they said, the primary contest will be that much closer to a fair fight.

Staff researcher Madonna Lebling contributed to this report.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company