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Obama rakes in big bucks, but message seen lacking
Question of the Day
Sen. Barack Obama, who leads in the Democratic presidential fundraising race, will rake in more than $100 million in primary campaign money this year, allowing him to go toe-to-toe next year with front-runner Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, party strategists said this week.
But Democratic campaign advisers cautioned that the Illinois senator, who has trailed Mrs. Clinton in all national presidential-preference polls, will need more than money to catch up to the New York senator. They said he will need a more compelling message.
Mr. Obama stunned many party veterans this week when he announced that he outraised Mrs. Clinton in the second quarter — despite her vaunted capacity to attract big-money donors — pulling in more than $31 million in the last three months from a list of more than 250,000 donors.
Although Mrs. Clinton raised $27 million in the same period, her donor base was significantly smaller than her chief rival's because so many of them had given the maximum contribution that federal campaign-finance laws allow — $2,300 — in the first three months of this year.
"You have to congratulate Obama's campaign on what they have been able to put together and how they've been able to do it. His contribution numbers knock your socks off, but others are doing well, too," said Mike Lux of the Progressive Donor Network, which advises political donors and foundations.
Mr. Obama's second-quarter fundraising, much of it done on the Internet, together with his $24.8 million haul in the first quarter, means he has raised more than $55 million in the past six months, a figure that campaign-finance professionals said puts him on track to more than double that figure by year's end.
"I think he is in line to raise more than $100 million. It would be a surprise to me at this point if he wouldn't hit $100 million by the end of the year," Mr. Lux said.
Obama fundraisers said that perhaps the most salient characteristic of the senator's contributors is not just the willingness to financially support his presidential bid, but the donors' political diversity as well.
"The [political] breadth of his support is what is particularly striking," said Howard Gutman, a Washington, D.C. lawyer who is raising money for Mr. Obama.
But Democratic campaign strategist Donna Brazile warned that money isn't everything.
"For Obama, it means that money will not become a problem in getting his message out or building momentum in the early states," Miss Brazile said. "But to beat Hillary Clinton, he will need more than money. Obama needs a message that resonates with an electorate eager for both change and someone with the experience to lead us in a different direction."
Mrs. Clinton, who has raised almost $50 million so far this year, is no slouch in the campaign-money business, and she has stepped up her fundraising activities. She was in California and Florida last week on fundraising tours and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, recently sent out an e-mail appeal for additional contributions.
"I don't think she is in a difficult situation money-wise. While it's very impressive what the Obama campaign has raised, both Obama and Clinton will be able to compete in the first four states, no matter how much anyone raised," Mr. Lux said.
"What happens next is going to depend on the momentum that takes over after that, depending on who wins in those early contests. Right now, Clinton and Obama have plenty of money," he said.
By John McAfee
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