This led to the Clinton campaign urging their supporters to keep up with Obama's fundraising... and, from that perspective, it was pretty dangerous to his campaign, because it started to build a legitimate grassroots fundraising effort around her, where previously the bulk of her money came almost entirely from big money and corporate donors, funding a traditional, top-down astroturf campaign.
To be fair, Hillary Clinton has always had about equal number of supporters from Democrats throughout this race. What they've lacked is true grassroots motivation and empowerment. By having visible fundraising goals, and by the admission of her loan to her campaign, Obama paradoxically helped motivate Hillary's supporters, who previously weren't so concerned about her fundraising capabilities.
In order to combat this, the Obama campaign wisely shifted their goals to the total number of donors for the year -- a statistic that Hillary Clinton's campaign simply could not compete against head-to-head -- rather than essentially establishing a dollar goal that the Clinton campaign could arguably stay in parity with, through a combination of online donations and big money fundraisers. This shift also drained a lot of the motivation out of her supporters, by removing the direct, visible financial competition involved.
Going with different metrics that the Clinton's couldn't compete directly against has made a real difference this month. The Clinton campaign has apparently raised somewhat over $15M so far this month, with perhaps over 2/3rds of that in the days right after Super Tuesday. This pales in comparison to an announcement on Wednesday from the Obama campaign, saying that they were close to their goal of 500,000 contributors for this year, which would allow them to raise at least $36M for this month.
Obviously, this alone is pretty ambitious fundraising that the Clinton campaign would have a very difficult time matching. The bad news for the Clinton camp, however, was that the Obama team didn't bother telling the media that they already knew their next fundraising strategy, and that they had good reason to believe that they wouldn't just hit $36 million by the end of the month -- an amount equal to February's fundraising -- but would exceed it by a huge margin. They appear to have intentionally lowballed their figures, in order to make their final reported donations unexpectedly high, setting it up as a huge news item that we can expect to see released just days before the people of Ohio and Texas go to the polls.
So, how is the Clinton campaign addressing this major financial disparity that is allowing Obama's campaign to outspend them on advertising in Texas and Ohio, and really dominate at a local level with more campaign headquarters and local outreach? Apparently in the traditional, old-school way. What we've seen is a sharp drop-off in their grassroots internet fundraising from early February, and a very significant increase in the Clintons turning to traditional fundraisers, trying to expand their big donor support, because most of their existing big donors have already contributed the maximum amount.
According to the New York Sun, President Clinton made a very quiet, off-the-itinerary sweep through California on Tuesday, for a $2,300-a-ticket morning fund-raiser that prominent Jewish philanthropists. He also swept through the San Francisco bay area, with several fundraisers seeking money from Asian Americans and Americans of Indian descent. Likewise, Hillary Clinton went to Manhattan, where she attended a $2,300-a-head lunchtime fund-raiser targeting the Irish-American community.
While these fundraisers probably netted about $2M for Hillary Clinton's campaign, it's worth pointing out that it kept both Bill and Hillary from campaigning in Texas and Ohio. Its also worth noting what the Clinton campaign is promising these Asian, Indian, and Irish donors -- easing immigration rules, and allowing for more overseas workers. A recent article in an Indian online paper"Indian-Americans are Hillary's main fund raisers", is even more explicit, with a quote from one of her Indian-American supporters:
"She's going to expand the H1B visa program for India and . . . will open a lot of trade between India and US".
Personally, I don't think the people of Ohio and Texas would take too kindly to what she's telling these big money donors. I imagine that voters in Ohio and Texas would prefer it if she offered training to laid-off, out-of-work Americans for these jobs, and that they didn't flood the country with cheap Indian goods in the same way that her husband flooded America with cheap goods from China and Mexico, but... well... there's money to be made, right?!
Also, Hillary Clinton has not spoken out against or refused the support of a new political action committee, the American Leadership Project, which aims to canvass big-money "Clinton donors for pledges of up to $100,000 in the hope of raising at least $10M by the end of next week" to run television ads and send pro-Clinton literature to the upcoming primary states. In effect, the organization functions identically to the organization that launched the swift boat attacks against John Kerry.
In response, yesterday the Obama campaign shifted their fundraising goal again, saying this:
"We've crunched all the numbers and discovered that we are within striking distance of something historic: one million people donating to this campaign.. . ."
And today, they specifically linked the goal of reaching one million campaign contributors vs. the 100 $100,000 donors that the PAC is looking for, sending out another email and causing another flood of donations.
To make matters even more difficult for this new PAC, Obama's lawyers are claiming that the organization is illegal, is violating the law regarding such organizations, and is threatening to hold the organizers of the PAC personally, financially, legally accountable. This could certainly help discourage donations to the organization, and it also will create talk from the media -- "a big money PAC supporting Hillary." "Swiftboating?" "Are they illegal?" "Should they be illegal?" "What does the Clinton camp say?" None of these are issues that her campaign particularly want in the news cycle for several days, and the more adamant and outspoken the Obama campaign is about the issue, the worse it's going to look for her... and the more people will support his campaign. I would be very surprized if the PAC isn't mentioned by Obama in tonight's debate.
The end result of this fundraising? Barack Obama's campaign have 950,000 donors as of this post at 3pm PST Thursday, and have gotten so much support that the previous goal of 500,000 people by March 4th -- which was at about 430,000 before Obama's win on Tuesday in Wisconsin and Hawaii, is now at 575,000. That's 145,000 contributions in approximately 48 hours, or about 3,000 contributions per hour. Expect yet another donate / reminder of the goal email to go out following tonight's debate.
So, what does this mean, moneywise? Based on previous donation averages, I would expect it means That Obama's campaign is raising nearly $5 million a day right now, and although I expect those numbers will decrease somewhat, the new goal will presumably continue raising serious money until his campaign exceeds one million contributors, most likely by Monday, Feb. 25th. By my estimates, they've already raised considerably more than the still-to-be-raised goal of the pro-Clinton PAC.
That's a huge surge in fundraising... the biggest we've seen since Super Tuesday's fundraising surge, with money coming in at approximately the same speed. The big difference being... this surge in Obama's grassroots donations is not being contested by Hillary Clinton's online supporters.
While the Clinton campaign may be on track for as much as $30 million this month, if my estimates are correct, Barack Obama's campaign could raise in excess of $60 million dollars for February, in a way that isn't particularly visible to or easily contested by her supporters.
That's an unheard of figure, and, ultimately, pretty crushing for Hillary Clinton's longterm chances of winning this race, especially when you figure in that her campaign has $7.6M in debts from last month, not counting the $5M that the Clintons loaned the campaign.
Those debts will have to be paid off sometime, and given that potential losses in Texas and Ohio could take all the wind out of Hillary Clinton's ability to fundraise, you have to wonder... will it even be possible for the Clintons to raise that kind of money once it's clear that she's going to lose the race?
Can the Clinton campaign afford to go "all in" in a game of Texas Hold'em, when Obama's team clearly has the money to raise the stakes even further... or will the Clintons have to fold?