- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 14, 2007

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has a former president plugging for her and helping her rake in millions. Sen. Barack Obama is walking door to door, telling supporters that a $5 contribution to his campaign can help spur political change.

For those keeping a close eye on the two front-runners for the 2008 Democratic nomination, Mrs. Clinton“s and Mr. Obama“s schedules this past weekend illustrate how each is taking a different path in hopes of securing their party”s nod for the presidency.

Mrs. Clinton spent Saturday courting labor voters and helping raise funds for Iowa Democrats; Mr. Obama joined his grass-roots supporters in Iowa as they and “Obamaniacs” across the country knocked on 350,000 doors.

Mr. Obama, of Illinois, has attracted younger voters and is pushing them to get involved on his behalf, promising a citizen-inspired movement. He walked with volunteers Saturday, knocking on doors in Dubuque, Iowa, and telling voters what his candidacy brings to the field. His campaign posted video of the senator speaking with a nurse about his health care plan.

“I’d love for you to take a look at the plan and see what you think,” he told her. “You may have some ideas that we haven”t thought of.”

Mrs. Clinton, of New York, is running a tightly organized campaign and has been successful in wooing many of the traditional left-leaning groups and longtime Democrats who were loyal to her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

At the AFL-CIO forum in Detroit, Mrs. Clinton stressed, “If we don’t have a strong manufacturing base in our economy, it won’t be long until we don’t have a strong economy” and said she would “look out for America” if elected.

Mr. Clinton recently appealed to his wife’s supporters in a five-minute Web video, lauding her as being an advocate for children and a fighter for working people.

He outlined his wife’s “big goals” and dedication to public service and said she “has the best combination of mind and heart, of leadership ability and a feel for the human consequences of the decisions that a leader makes.”

Mr. Clinton recently brought in more than $1 million in a New York fundraiser, one of several he has held on behalf of the former first lady.

“There’s no better fundraising asset in the Democratic Party than Bill Clinton,” said Michael Toner, former chairman of the Federal Election Commission. “He’s a marquee draw and is a tremendous asset for her both politically and in terms of fundraising.”

Mrs. Clinton yesterday nabbed an endorsement from Hollywood producer Steven Spielberg. The Oscar-winning filmmaker has held fundraisers for both candidates but said Mrs. Clinton is “the most-qualified candidate to lead us from her first day in the White House.”

The two candidates were neck and neck in first-quarter fundraising and expectations are high for the quarter that closes this month. Mrs. Clinton raised more money last time, but Mr. Obama had a larger pool of donors and is tapping them for small donations.

His latest fundraising effort, Dinner With Barack, is giving donors who donated as little as $5 over a one-week period the chance to be one of four supporters who join him for an “intimate dinner.”

The voters can help “reshape the political process,” Mr. Obama said in a video to supporters.

“We’ll fly you in, I’ll pay for dinner, we’ll sit, and we’ll talk about what we need to do to change this country,” he said. “You don’t have to be well-connected, you don’t have to be rich. You just have to be part of the Barack Obama campaign. This is really how change is going to happen — not from the top down but from the bottom up.”

The campaign will handpick the dinner attendees based on their personal descriptions as provided on the donation form, Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

The dinner donor solicitation is “very innovative,” Mr. Toner said, and illustrates the historic nature of the 2008 campaign.

“It’s much more inclusive, and there is no question more Americans will be giving in the 2008 race than ever before,” he said.

Miss Psaki agreed: “It’s not about the money; it’s about encouraging people to tell us about themselves and to play an active role in this campaign.”

Mrs. Clinton has boosted her own Internet fundraising efforts, using her husband’s message and appealing to supporters in two self-deprecating YouTube videos to ask for their help choosing a campaign theme song.

“We’ve had a significant outpouring of support online,” campaign spokesman Phil Singer said. “We’re creating opportunities that allow people to get involved and participate and to donate as well.”

The two senators sit atop polls above the rest of the Democratic field, although Mrs. Clinton has consistently had a healthy lead over Mr. Obama in national polls and has almost total name recognition.

Former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, holding at third place in most national polls, is hosting “Small Change for Big Change” events — some with a $15 ticket price.

His campaign is “built on reaching out to everyone [and] … is about working together to achieve truly transformational change for our country and our world,” said campaign manager David Bonior.

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