Clinton Camp Feels Spent, and Outspent

By Matthew Mosk
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 4, 2008

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton spent a second straight day holding fundraisers in California yesterday as part of an all-out effort to keep pace with the record amounts of money raised by Sen. Barack Obama, whose campaign announced that it pulled in $40 million in March, double Clinton's $20 million take.

While her Democratic presidential rival took the day off in Chicago, Clinton held two fundraisers in Los Angeles and planned to raise money in New Mexico this weekend. She will leave the campaign trail on Wednesday to attend an Elton John concert in New York organized with a goal to raise $2 million.

In an attempt to further tap the online donor market that has largely funded Obama's effort, Clinton plans to launch a new Internet program today that lets supporters choose where their money will go, much as wedding guests select gifts from a registry. Instead of china and crystal, users can purchase campaign signs, van rentals, airtime on radio stations and doorknob advertisements.

Even Clinton's most energetic boosters expressed exhaustion by the call to raise more money. "I'll tell you, after a year of doing this, it's like asking me to run a half-marathon after I've run a marathon," said Mark A. Aronchick, a co-chairman of Clinton's Pennsylvania campaign, who is organizing five fundraisers over the next eight days.

Clinton, too, had a hint of resignation in her answer to reporters asking whether she is now being outspent "two to one" by Obama. "Sometimes three to one, four to one, five to one," she said with a laugh. "I'm getting used to being outspent."

Obama's immense cash flow -- he has raised more than $240 million to Clinton's $175 million -- allows him to compete as aggressively in the final primary contests as he did in the early days of the race. He is vastly outspending Clinton in Pennsylvania, with $3 million in television and radio ads, including a Spanish-language TV ad airing in the Philadelphia area, compared with an estimated $500,000 that Clinton is spending in the state, which will hold its primary on April 22.

In North Carolina, which will vote on May 6, the Obama campaign has opened 16 offices, including ones in smaller locales such as Hickory, Elizabeth City and Boone. Obama is spending $800,000 on the airwaves, and his team is making a strong push to register voters, with 22 training and local outreach sessions scheduled for yesterday alone.

In Indiana, which will also hold its primary on May 6, Obama has spent $1 million on television ads that have been airing for more than a week, and the campaign opened its 17th office there yesterday. Clinton has 12 offices in the state.

The Clinton team has not run a television ad in Indiana; it began running its first ad in North Carolina yesterday.

Obama's heavy investment in field offices, phone banks and other or ganizational efforts probably is where his financial edge will be most significant, said Michael Feldman, a former adviser to Al Gore who says he is neutral in the Democratic contest.

"I bet if you scanned the number of campaign field offices they have, in some harder-to-reach places, you'd see that every voter is being pursued vigorously," he said. "They've been able to put a lot of effort into chasing these voters."

Obama's ability to capitalize on a sustained wave of online support has enabled him to spend almost all of his time campaigning. Clinton has attended more than a dozen fundraisers since Jan. 1, and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, has appeared at more than 40, while Obama and his wife have attended fewer than 10 during that time.

Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. (D-Pa.), an Obama supporter, said he was shocked when he learned Obama attended just one fundraiser in February. Casey, by contrast, attended 450 fundraisers during his 2006 Senate campaign. He said a typical day involved three hours of calling donors, followed by as many as three fundraising events per night. "It was pick-and-shovel work, just chipping away."

Obama spokesman Bill Burton said yesterday that the campaign is "grateful" for the largess and is "using the resources as efficiently as possible."

Clinton advisers said they think that Obama's edge on the airwaves in Pennsylvania has been neutralized by extensive media coverage and that the support of key elected leaders, including Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell, will help them offset whatever organizational advantages Obama may have.

Clinton is also getting help from the American Federation of Teachers and the women's political group Emily's List, which have both spent heavily on mailings and radio ads in recent days. Aronchick said that calls for Clinton to leave the race have boosted her support.

"The suggestions that she should get out and fold it up -- I can't tell you how that whips up energy and passion in people," he said.

While Obama and Clinton have invested heavily to defeat each other, it is unclear how much money, if any, is being spent on preparations for a general-election contest against Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee.

Political strategist Carter Eskew noted that McCain has already begun a series of television ads aimed at defining him as the more experienced and patriotic candidate, much in the way President Bill Clinton used the gap before the GOP nomination was solidified in 1996 to set the tone of the campaign.

"If I were Obama, I would not want to see that happen," Eskew said. "I would think there are discussions where they are saying, 'I can't let this guy have five months of uninterrupted airtime to define himself.' "

Staff writers Perry Bacon Jr. and Shailagh Murray contributed to this report.

View all comments that have been posted about this article.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company