Obama holds slight financial advantage

[17 July 2007]

By Mike Dorning and John McCormick

Chicago Tribune (MCT)

WASHINGTON - Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama edged his way to a financial advantage over front-runner Hillary Clinton as both Democrats on Sunday reported amassing imposing campaign war chests of more than $30 million each for the presidential primaries.

With six months to go before the first votes are cast, Obama reported more than $34 million in cash available for the primary campaign, slightly more than the $33 million that the former first lady held on June 30.

Clinton showed a larger bank balance of $45 million. But $12 million of that was restricted funds that cannot be used for a presidential primary campaign, only for a later general election campaign. Obama reported an overall balance of $36.3 million.

Primary candidates can only accept donations of up to $2,300 per contributor, but donors are allowed to contribute the same amount to a general election campaign. The Obama campaign has not aggressively sought general-election contributions, which in this phase of the election cycle typically come only from big-dollar contributors.

Obama and Clinton revealed their financial data a few hours before a midnight deadline on Sunday for presidential candidates to file detailed disclosures of campaign finances during the April through June quarter. Most of the major Republican candidates filed their reports on Friday.

Fundraising is only one component in a presidential campaign. Other forces such as shifting public sentiments, the campaign message and a candidate’s performance during an exhausting, pressure-filled contest also are crucial to the outcome. And past candidates such as Democrat Howard Dean in 2004 and Republican Phil Gramm in 1996 have lost primaries despite leading in fundraising the prior year.

In this year’s Democratic contest, Clinton retains a considerable lead in national polls.

Still, Obama’s fundraising has been a formidable achievement. He attracted more than 258,000 donors this year. During the second quarter, he received $32.9 million in contributions, more than $31 million for the primary campaign.

New York replaced Chicago as Obama’s top fundraising city during the second quarter, with the Big Apple contributing at least $2 million to his total, as compared with $1.8 million for Chicago. Neither total includes contributions from suburban areas that surround those cities.

Although Obama’s financial advantage is slight, he now has more financial resources available for the primary than Clinton, who began the race with $10 million left over from her 2006 Senate re-election campaign and an established network of donors and fundraisers.

Clinton raised $27.1 million during the quarter, of which $21.5 can be used for the primary.

But the New York senator kept tighter control of expenses, spending $12.5 million during the quarter compared with $16 million that Obama spent.

While Democrat John Edwards trailed far behind his party’s front-runners, he maintained a solid third-place position in finances, reporting a campaign war chest of $12 million available for the primaries, up $2 million from the last quarter.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who filed his disclosure a day early, reported $7.1 million.

Edwards received a surge of contributions following a June 26 dust-up with conservative talk show host Ann Coulter, accounting for more than a quarter of his contributions over the three-month period.

Elizabeth Edwards phoned into a broadcast of MSNBC’s “Hardball” for an on-air confrontation with Coulter, whose personal attacks on John Edwards have included describing him with a slur directed at homosexuals. The campaign featured the exchange in an e-mail fundraising appeal that began the same day.

The next day was the second-biggest fundraising day for the quarter, bringing in $368,000.

Two other Democrats who filed their disclosures on Sunday spent more on their campaigns than they received in contributions during the quarter.

Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., spent $4.4 million while raising only $3.3 million, finishing the quarter with $6.4 million in cash, $5.9 million available for the primary campaign.

Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., spent $2.5 million while raising $2.4 million. He reported $2.8 million in cash on hand, with $2.2 million available for the primary.

With several hours to go before the midnight filing deadline, Republican Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., had not yet released his financial data. But aides said last week that they expected his campaign to show considerable debt and a net worth of less than $1 million.

That gives McCain a smaller campaign war chest than long-shot candidate Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, who routinely receives about 1 percent support in national polls. The libertarian gadfly reported cash on hand of $2.4 million, assisted by a surge of contributions from a following he has developed on the Internet

Republican front-runner Rudolph Giuliani filed his report on Friday, showing $18.3 million in cash, with $14.6 million available for the primary. Republican Mitt Romney, who also filed his disclosure early, showed a balance of $20.5 million, all available for the primary, aided by nearly $9 million in loans from his personal fortune.

Republican Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas reported on Sunday that his campaign war chest shrank during the quarter, to $460,000. Brownback spent $1.8 million but received contributions of only $1.4 million.

Among other Republicans, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee reported a bank balance of $437,000, raising $764,000, just barely more than his expenses of $703,000.

Former Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson reported his campaign was in the red, with debts of $127,000 slightly exceeding a cash balance of $122,000. Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, who withdrew from the race on Saturday, was deeper in the hole, with debts of $129,000 against a June 30 bank balance of $62,000.

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(Dorning reported from Washington, McCormick from Chicago.)

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/article/obama-holds-slight-financial-advantage/