By Shailagh Murray and Matthew Mosk
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, February 7, 2008
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton announced yesterday that she had lent her campaign $5 million, a remarkable twist for a candidate who raised more than $100 million last year that came as she and Sen. Barack Obama continued to spar over which of them was the Democratic winner in coast-to-coast Super Tuesday balloting.
Clinton aides pointed to her victories in big states such as California and New Jersey as signs that she had carried the day, while Obama's camp highlighted his wins in 13 of the 22 states that voted.
The results left Clinton (N.Y.) and Obama (Ill.) roughly even in the number of pledged delegates accumulated during the first month of the Democratic presidential primary and caucus season. Through the first four party-sanctioned contests before Super Tuesday, Obama had won 63 delegates to Clinton's 48.
A total of 1,681 delegates were at stake Tuesday, and the Associated Press reported yesterday that Clinton won 737, compared with 699 for Obama, with almost 300 still to be awarded.
Obama advisers said that he would emerge from Tuesday's voting with 847 delegates to Clinton's 834, giving him a lead of 910 to 882 among pledged delegates. The Clinton campaign said it did not have final projections but estimated that the margin between the two would be in the single digits.
Beyond the delegates awarded on the basis of the primary and caucus results, Clinton has a lead among the 796 superdelegates -- party officials, members of Congress, governors and others -- who automatically have voting status at the Democratic National Convention and are not bound by the results of contests in their states in deciding whom to support.
There is no official count of these delegates, but various news organizations are reporting that Clinton leads Obama by about 90 superdelegates, with about 450 not publicly committed. Clinton got an early jump on Obama in the competition for superdelegates, but the senator from Illinois has begun to catch up as he has amassed endorsements from mainstream party figures.
Given how competitive the race is, many superdelegates may remain neutral to see whether one of the two candidates gains a clear advantage. That, Democratic strategists said, would require Clinton or Obama to go on a lengthy winning streak that would include victories in the March 4 Ohio and Texas primaries. Obama is making a big play for Texas, with plans to open 10 offices there in the days ahead.
"If you notice, we have been closing the gap steadily," Obama said. "I think we will continue to close the gap."
There is another delegate wild card looming: what to do with the delegations from Michigan and Florida. Both states were sanctioned by the Democratic National Committee for moving their primaries into January in violation of party rules and were stripped of their delegates. Clinton won both states and has said she wants their delegations -- representing a potential three-figure swing in delegates -- seated at the national convention in Denver. Democrats want to avoid an ugly credentials fight at the August convention and are calling on DNC Chairman Howard Dean to defuse the issue well beforehand.
The Super Tuesday outcome offered a vivid illustration of how the Democratic Party's rules for proportional distribution of delegates prevents a winning candidate from gaining a decisive advantage over a strong challenger in the race for delegates and explains why neither candidate is likely to gain enough delegates to secure the nomination before the last primary in early June.
But even as they sorted through the results, both Clinton and Obama quickly pivoted to the next races on the calendar. Obama headed to Louisiana, where 67 delegates are at stake on Saturday, while Clinton turned her focus to the "Potomac Primary," in which Maryland, Virginia and the District will vote Tuesday.
Obama, at a news conference before leaving his home town of Chicago, described Clinton as the "front-runner in every single contest." The Clinton campaign predicted that Obama would win the races immediately ahead, continuing a game of expectations management that has been waged for more than a month.
"Senator Clinton is a formidable opponent," Obama said. "She's got a familiar and well-appreciated name. She's got a political machine honed over two decades."
At her campaign headquarters in Arlington, Clinton defended her maneuver, executed last month but kept under wraps until yesterday, to add money to her campaign coffers. News of the $5 million transfer came as a surprise to Clinton donors who had assumed her campaign, which raised $100 million last year, would keep pace with Obama's. Earlier this month, Obama announced that he had raised $32 million in January alone, and aides said he took in an additional $3.5 million yesterday.
Clinton said she moved her own money last month "because I believe very strongly in this campaign."
"We had a great month fundraising in January, broke all the records, but my opponent was able to raise more money and we intend to be competitive," she said. "The results of last night proved the wisdom of my investment."
Terence R. McAuliffe, Clinton's campaign chairman, said the team had raised at least $13 million in January, and noted that figure did not include the loan.
It was unclear whether news of Clinton's financial stresses would affect her fundraising. Top fundraisers said they did not learn of her move until after Super Tuesday's contests, suggesting that the campaign was aware it could be a public relations blow.
The campaign has revealed little about its finances after a significant outlay for advertising, travel and field work on Super Tuesday But yesterday, campaign officials confirmed that members of Clinton's campaign staff had agreed to work without taking any pay.
Mark Aronchick, a Pennsylvania fundraiser who attended a victory party at the Manhattan Center in New York with many of the campaign's $100,000 "Hillraisers" on Tuesday night, said the subject of her loan never came up in conversation during the party. "To the contrary, the mood was euphoric, and the temperature I got from the fundraising folks was just, it was high-fives, and ready to rock," Aronchick said, adding that he is not concerned about the development.
"My guess is that the thinking was: Well, if you've raised that much money, then Hillary will put more money into the campaign, too," Aronchick said. "It's like, 'Ante up.' "
But Clinton finance co-chairman Hassan Nemazee spent yesterday taking calls from donors who wondered what to make of the senator's decision.
"What I told them was: We will not be uncompetitive for lack of resources. We will have what it takes to compete in February and March, and right through April if it takes that," Nemazee said. Joe Trippi, an adviser to John Edwards until he dropped out of the race, said the loan is a sign of trouble. "It means she's at a tremendous disadvantage moving forward," he said. "The worst thing to be is an 800-pound gorilla who's out of money. The cultural shock for the campaign is incredible."
Staff writers Anne E. Kornblut, Dan Balz and Perry Bacon Jr. and research editor Alice Crites contributed to this report.