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."
"I know Senator Clinton from years past, and I've supported both she and her husband in the past, so it's an easy transition for me," McKernan said.
On the Republican side, the outreach to Giuliani supporters by aides to Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has been less organized.
Hug said he had not heard from either campaign in recent days. Robert W. Naylor, a Sacramento lawyer, said that he received one call from a friend who backs Romney, but that it came too late. He had already reached out to McCain's camp.
Naylor had planned to serve as a delegate for Giuliani but said yesterday that he is getting behind McCain because "he is, of the remaining candidates, the most likely to be able to attract independents and Democrats."
The urgency of finding new donors for the candidates still standing cannot be understated. McCain finished 2007 with $2.9 million in cash and $4.5 million in debts, according to his campaign's year-end financial report. He has since raised about $7 million, his campaign aides have said, adding that he has seen fundraising accelerate in the aftermath of his South Carolina and Florida primary victories.
Naylor said he received a call on Tuesday saying that a McCain fundraising breakfast planned for San Francisco had to be moved to a larger venue because of new interest in the event.
But with contests in more than 20 states on Tuesday, including primaries in some of the nation's most costly media markets, the candidates' immediate needs are enormous, even for fundraising juggernauts such as the Obama and Clinton campaigns.
Terence R. McAuliffe, the chairman of Clinton's campaign, said he is urging recruits from the Edwards camp to begin making calls immediately.
After two days of meetings with trial lawyers, McAuliffe said he has secured support from a handful of former Edwards backers who have the potential to raise $100,000 each before Super Tuesday.
"They have a huge reach," McAuliffe said. "They can raise money very quickly."
Still, not all of those who worked hard on Edwards's behalf are ready to make the leap to another campaign just yet.
Robert B. Crowe, a Boston lawyer who served as a top fundraiser for Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.) in 2004 and who has not yet committed to helping a Democratic candidate, said he knows several people who simply are not ready to move to a new candidate.
"It's hard, if you've given all you have to a campaign, to get ginned up for another candidate and start that process all over again," Crowe said. "And I suspect it is especially hard given how close we are now to Super Tuesday."