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Democrats Blaze Trails In February Fundraising

By Matthew Mosk
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 29, 2008

Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama continued to rewrite fundraising records this month, with Clinton announcing yesterday that she had rebounded from a disappointing showing in January to raise $35 million in February, by far her biggest one-month total of the campaign.

Obama (Ill.), who raised $36 million in January, has not yet announced a total for February, but aides said it will be "considerably more" than that raised by his rival for the Democratic nomination. Their combined total appeared poised to surpass the $71 million raised by President Bush and Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) in March 2004, the previous record for fundraising by two candidates for the presidency in a single month.

The display of fundraising muscle came even as Clinton (N.Y.) slipped in national polls and suffered several setbacks at the ballot box. She said more than doubling what she had raised in January has left her well positioned for another primary-season comeback.

Clinton attributed the jump in donations to a core of passionate supporters who sent money when they saw her campaign struggling. Aides said online contributions, which accounted for $30 million of the total, soared after Clinton revealed in late January that she had lent the campaign $5 million to keep her bid afloat.

"Contributions are another way of judging" how much support a candidate has, Clinton said between campaign stops in Ohio yesterday. "When people found out we didn't have the resources to compete, and I did put my own money in, it just set off a chain reaction across the country."

Despite evidence that he is out-spending Clinton significantly in Texas and Ohio, Obama maintained a cautious tone yesterday, urging his supporters to "remember New Hampshire" -- whose primary Clinton won on Jan. 8.

Others may be writing Clinton's political obituary, but "I have not," Obama told reporters aboard his campaign plane.

The most reliable sign that Obama remains the better-financed candidate is on television sets in Texas and Ohio, where he has aired nearly twice as many campaign commercials as Clinton. The states will hold key primaries Tuesday.

Evan Tracey, chief operating officer of the Campaign Media Analysis Group, said this week that Obama has spent more than $7 million in the two states and Clinton has spent about $4 million. Factoring in cable television ads, Obama has run more than 57,000 30-second spots and Clinton has aired about 31,000, according to an analysis by Tim Kay, director of political strategy at National Cable Communications.

Hassan Nemazee, one of Clinton's top fundraisers, said yesterday that while he recognizes Obama has continued to raise and spend significantly more money, her February total has helped him assure supporters that the campaign is not over.

"What we know is, we will not lose on Tuesday as a consequence of money," he said. "I would argue it means we're in a good position to win and stop this string of unbroken victories and unanswered victories."

Peter Daou, who oversees Clinton's Internet fundraising efforts, said in a recent interview that he thinks very different emotions motivated the candidates' supporters to contribute in February.

"His was driven by the desire to share in the victory," Daou said. "Ours was driven by a perceived need."

Carolyn Harding, an actress who runs an improvisational theater in Columbus, Ohio, donated $75 online to Clinton this month, the day before she attended a packed rally at Ohio State University.

"I saw Obama gaining on Clinton, and I knew I needed to step it up. So I went online, donated money and even bought some buttons and yard signs," said Harding, who said she is a great-great-niece of former president Warren G. Harding.

To reach out to small donors such as Harding, Daou said, the campaign sent pleas through social networking sites and launched online advertising efforts seeking contributions.

Jerome Armstrong, founder of the blog MyDD and one of the few liberal bloggers who are supporting Clinton, said Daou contacted him early this month about the campaign's desire to seed an online fundraising surge. Daou, who regularly reaches out to bloggers, has advertised on Armstrong's blog.

"Most people who are Hillary supporters didn't know she needed money. The thinking out there was that she had the money," said Armstrong, who served as an online strategist in Howard Dean's campaign in 2004. "Once her supporters saw the signs that Hillary needed money, it activated them. . . . In any sort of online fundraising, you need an emotional pull with the person that you've given money to."

Clinton traveled yesterday through the Appalachian edge of Ohio to talk about poverty and the economy.

At an event in Hanging Rock, Clinton listened as voters in the economically depressed region described their hardships. She introduced a single, 21-year-old mother and an older mother of four as examples of who would benefit from expanding child-care and health-care programs.

The event was part of a carefully orchestrated effort to demonstrate that Clinton is far from pulling out of the contest. That campaign included not only the fundraising announcement but also proclamations from Clinton aides that they have organizations up and running in Pennsylvania and Wyoming, which host contests in the weeks ahead.

Obama spent the day in Texas, looking ahead warily to next week's contests, which could end the primary season or signal that it might drag on for weeks or months.

"Senator Clinton is working tirelessly, as is Bill Clinton. These races are extraordinarily tight," Obama said. "I want to make sure we are doing everything we can to win these next two contests. That's how we've won in the past."

At a town hall meeting in Austin yesterday morning, Obama mostly ignored Clinton. He trained his attacks on Bush and the presumptive Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), saying they hurt the nation's economy.

"We are not standing on the brink of recession because of forces beyond our control," Obama said. "This was not an inevitable part of the business cycle. It was a failure of leadership in Washington -- a Washington where George Bush hands out billions of tax cuts to the wealthiest few for eight long years and John McCain promises to make those same tax cuts permanent."

Obama will campaign in Texas on Saturday morning and then travel to Providence, R.I., for a rally before returning to Ohio on Sunday. He told reporters that the "whole goal has been to get delegates."

During a conference call yesterday, Clinton adviser Harold Ickes told campaign supporters that he thinks neither candidate will reach the party's convention in late August with the 2,025 delegates needed to secure the nomination -- meaning the outcome will ultimately fall on superdelegates. He said media reports about superdelegates shifting allegiances to Obama are "a very rare exception."

"Our superdelegates are holding," Ickes said. The latest count by the Associated Press showed that of the 796 superdelegates, Clinton has backing from 242, Obama has support from 188, and the remainder are uncommitted or unknown.

Staff writers Jose Antonio Vargas and Anne E. Kornblut in Ohio and Shailagh Murray in Texas and staff researcher Madonna Lebling in Washington contributed to this report.

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