As Electoral Fortunes Rise, Fundraising Tends to Follow

Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, January 9, 2008; Page A06

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's top fundraisers said last night they believe her strong showing in New Hampshire will match the crush of donations Sen. Barack Obama began to collect out of Iowa, and will keep them on even financial footing as the two top Democrats sprint to Super Tuesday.

In a matter of hours, Clinton's financial backers went from distress to elation as they watched her climb back into contention in New Hampshire.

"Last Thursday, donors were discouraged, frustrated, and I spent all day on the phone being reassuring and encouraging," said Robert Zimmerman, a Clinton fundraiser from Long Island, N.Y. "Tonight, it's more than relief. There's a sense of vindication. And of real hope."

For several days, Clinton (D-N.Y.) and her finance team had been hosting conference calls with jittery members of her finance team in the aftermath of her Iowa defeat. As she headed to New Hampshire, several said they were already starting to feel more confident.

"I think she just really knows how to keep herself together," said Suzy Tompkins Buell, one of Clinton's top California fundraisers.

Obama (D-Ill.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) both came into New Hampshire with a windfall of new contributions. Brian Ballard, one of McCain's chief fundraisers in cash-rich Florida, said the campaign plans to hold at least nine fundraising events across Florida from West Palm Beach to Tampa during the time between the South Carolina GOP primary on Jan. 19 and Florida's Jan. 29 contest. "I am confident we will raise in that one week period as much as we raised all of last year in Florida," he said.

Within days of Obama's Iowa win, he booked back-to-back, sold-out fundraisers in Boston and New York, and the campaign added an event in Los Angeles on Jan. 16. His campaign was so flush that its officials sent an e-mail yesterday to top New York fundraisers, telling them they "really hate to turn money away," but the campaign had hit its outer limit for the number of $2,300 donors it could fit into a Manhattan hotel ballroom.

"I've never had the fire marshal determine the fundraising potential of an event before," said Orin Kramer, a New York financier who is helping organize the Obama fundraiser planned for a Midtown hotel tonight. "That is outside my experience." One Obama fundraiser used the word "tsunami" to describe the flow of money coming from donors.

On the Republican side, McCain's New Hampshire win appeared likely to bring McCain a reversal of financial fortunes from this summer, when his campaign was nearly broke. "It is one of those deals where we've gone from people not returning your calls to folks now calling you to say, 'How can I get involved?' " Ballard said.

Clinton and Obama have led Democrats' fundraising, each drawing more than $100 million. But the day after the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses, Clinton, husband Bill Clinton and four top campaign officials each started hosting conference calls with worried "bundlers," the supporters who tap their networks for donations to her campaign. They were particularly concerned by a quiet effort by Obama's finance team to woo their donors.

"There have been vague overtures from Obama national finance folks to me and a couple of others I know," said Mark A. Aronchick, a Philadelphia lawyer who is a top fundraiser for Clinton. "They're calling and asking, 'Are you guys still in this for the long haul? Have you guys had enough?' It's respectful. And I appreciate the respect. But my answer back has been 'No.' "

Neither Obama nor Clinton has revealed how much money remains in reserve to use on Feb. 5, when about 20 states will hold primaries. Reports due to the Federal Election Commission on Jan. 31 will reveal more about their finances.

In contrast to McCain, Romney is facing uncertainty as his top donors arrive in Boston today for a big fundraising phone-athon; it was planned a month ago, when he expected to win the New Hampshire primary. The event was intended to replicate a fundraiser last year that brought in more than $6 million.

"Obviously, the enthusiasm will be less," said one Romney fundraiser who planned to attend the Boston event.

Romney has invested millions more from his personal wealth in his bid in recent weeks, on top of the $17 million he has already spent. Former senator John Edwards (D-N.C.) will received about $9 million in matching funds from the FEC in the coming weeks, and can borrow against that money at any time.

With former senator Fred D. Thompson (R-Tenn.) finishing near the bottom of New Hampshire's primary results and strapped for cash, his campaign is cutting headquarters staff salaries to free resources for a last-ditch effort in South Carolina. The decision means Thompson will mostly forgo the next primary, scheduled in Michigan.

Thompson entered the race late. He finished September having raised just under $13 million, and he started the last quarter of the year with $7 million to spend.

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