Money Race

The big news yesterday afternoon was a double negative story about the Clinton campaign’s money situation. First it came out that Hillary Clinton had loaned her campaign $5 million late last month. Then it came out that top staff on the Clinton campaign were foregoing pay, including the campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle.

The Obama campaign followed with a fundraising email to his supporters asking them to try to raise $5 million online in small dollar donations to match Clinton’s loan. Sarah Lai Stirland reported late last night that Obama had already raised over $6.3 million online since Super Tuesday; checking the Obama fundraising widget on their blog this morning, the number is now approaching $6.9 million. And to top that off, the Clinton campaign has announced that they’ve raised over $3 million online in the last 24 hours. Clearly both campaigns are entering Ron Paul territory when it comes to rapid online giving from their supporters.

While I was still on the Dodd campaign, I remember having a conversation with a number of our more experienced and savvy staffers who’ve been around campaigns much longer than I have about how the race might shape up if it got down to just Clinton and Obama (trust me, campaign staffers are just as much political junkies as folks online). The consensus was that, if it were close, the race would go to the convention because neither candidate would have an incentive to drop out as long as they had money and the assumption was that these two would always have enough money to compete.

I think money is a factor that will be most instructive for how things proceed over the coming weeks. The Clinton campaign is clearly in a tight financial situation, but is certainly capable of raising enough in spurts online to do what they need to do. I don’t know whether the Obama campaign’s speculation that Clinton might sink up to another $15 million comes from, but both Bill and Hillary have had many big book deals, and the former President has cleaned up as a consultant and speaker. But if they can’t keep the funds flowing in online, then the Clinton campaign will be in trouble. Obama’s support isn’t shrinking, it’s growing at a rapid rate. He’s probably going to easily pass the $30+ million he raised last month in February and don’t be shocked if they’re able to hit $10 million later today.

As of now, I don’t think that either campaign will be forced into conceding because of money. But the Clinton campaign, while showing strength in some areas financially, is showing weakness in others and is certainly not looking like it can match Obama’s small dollar tsunami. We’ll see how the rest of this week shakes out and if Clinton can keep her smaller (though still incredibly impressive) wave of online donations coming in to buoy the campaign in the next few days.

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