Obama beats Clinton on the money

March 6, 2008 6:33:49 PM PST
Democratic Sen. Barack Obama raised a record $55 million in February for his presidential campaign, eclipsing rival Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's own substantial fundraising for the month. All told, Obama has raised $193 million during his yearlong bid for the White House. The campaign's announcement Thursday came two days after Obama lost three of four primaries to Clinton. Her victories stopped his winning streak and extended the race into an unpredictable future.

Obama's February total was his second fundraising record. He raised $36 million in January, more than any other presidential candidate who has ever been in a contested primary. His combined January and February totals nearly matched what he raised last year.

"That's a humbling achievement, and I am very grateful for your support," Obama said in another fundraising appeal. "No campaign has ever raised this much in a single month in the history of presidential primaries. But more important than the total is how we did it - more than 90 percent of donations were $100 or less ..."

Until now, the high water mark for overall primary fundraising through February of an election year was set by President Bush in 2004, when he was unopposed. Bush had raised $155 million for the comparable period. Subtracting the money Obama has raised for the general election, Obama has raised more than $186 million.

Clinton raised an impressive $35 million in February, a significant recovery from January when Obama raised more than twice her total. But Obama has outpaced her both in fundraising and spending during the nominating contests.

More than $54 million of Obama's February money was for the primary election. The campaign said it raised $45 million through the Internet during the month and had 385,000 new contributors for a total of more than 1 million donors.

Details of their fundraising and spending for February won't be available until March 20, when the campaigns are required to file financial reports with the Federal Election Commission.

Riding her victory wave, Clinton's camp announced Thursday that she raised $4 million online since Tuesday's presidential primary successes in Ohio, Texas and Rhode Island.

The Clinton campaign said it had raised the money from the time polls closed Tuesday through noon Thursday. It reported 30,000 new donors. The influx of money made their online total raised for this month $6 million, the campaign announced.

With the outcome of their race uncertain, both campaigns are eagerly raising money for upcoming contests. The biggest one ahead is the April 22 primary in Pennsylvania, a state with two major media markets and a series of smaller ones that can consume advertising dollars. Obama has been airing television ads in Wyoming, which holds a caucus Saturday, and Mississippi, which holds a primary Tuesday. Both Obama and Clinton have radio ads in Wyoming and Obama has ads on radio in Mississippi as well.

Political advertising analyst Evan Tracey said a typical political ad buy in Pennsylvania would cost about half a million dollars a week. But with the high stakes in the state and the benefit of time, Tracey predicted both candidates would spend in excess of the more than $20 million the candidates spent advertising in Ohio and Texas combined.

Clinton advisers said they are optimistic about her chances in Pennsylvania and will move 200-300 staffers from Ohio and Texas to Pennsylvania, where they plan to open at least 23 offices across the state.

"We're going to have the funds we need to keep this campaign going, to keep Hillary Clinton's message out there," senior adviser Ann Lewis said in a teleconference with reporters.

Past victories have also caused upticks in giving. The Clinton campaign, for instance, raised more than $1 million in the 24 hours following her New Hampshire victory on Jan. 8. Obama raised $1.2 million the day after winning the Iowa caucuses and he raised even more in the 24 hours after losing in New Hampshire.

Clinton had to lend her campaign $5 million at the end of January, but has seen her finances improve since then. She reported raising $34 million for the primary in February.

Obama and his allies outspent her in Texas and Ohio in advertising.

Both campaigns have been the top fundraisers of the entire presidential field, raising $100 million each in 2007.