A Scramble for Edwards and Giuliani Fundraisers

By Matthew Mosk
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 31, 2008

When Democrat John Edwards and Republican Rudolph W. Giuliani abandoned their presidential bids yesterday, their exits marked the beginning of an open season on the supporters who had helped them raise a combined $100 million last year.

Edwards's finance team splintered in a matter of hours, with both Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) in hot pursuit of the top fundraisers.

Several of Giuliani's top bundlers, whom he had given such baseball-themed designations as Most Valuable Players and All Stars, said yesterday that they were hesitant to join another campaign.

"I'm distraught," said Richard Hug, a prolific Republican fundraiser who helped raise tens of thousands of dollars for Giuliani last year. "I don't know what I'm going to do. I'm probably just going to relax and stay out of politics."

For Giuliani backers, the shock of his campaign's collapse was still sinking in yesterday. Many of the former New York mayor's supporters had been convinced that Giuliani would surprise the political establishment with a win in Florida and would set off toward the nomination from there.

To Edwards confidants, by contrast, signs of his campaign's imminent disintegration had been evident for weeks. At last weekend's winter conference of trial lawyers -- many of whom had been his loyal supporters for years -- there was open discussion about when Edwards would give up his bid. And top finance officials from both the Clinton and Obama camps worked feverishly to recruit his supporters.

Yesterday, the finance operations of both Clinton and Obama shifted gears. Clinton's campaign sent out an e-mail providing the names of scores of women who had been backing Edwards, and asking supporters to contact them.

One of Obama's California organizers was the first to reach Deborah Rappaport, a San Francisco philanthropist who a month ago put $25,000 into an independent expenditure effort for Edwards. She told the Obama aide that she already had plans to attend a fundraiser this week for Obama, the candidate who would now "get my wholehearted support."

Florida trial lawyer Mitchell Berger, who helped raise money for Al Gore and solicited contributions for Edwards in both the 2004 and 2008 campaigns, said he, too, will be joining Obama.

"That's where I will be," Berger said. "The reason? John Edwards and Barack Obama completely agree on the institutional problems that exist in Washington."

Others said they were more inclined to get behind Clinton.

Joseph J. "Jerry" McKernan, a Baton Rouge trial lawyer, said he thinks Obama is "just a very big flash in the pan right now."

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