TOPICS > Politics

Obama, Romney Exceed Expectations in Presidential Fund Raising

April 4, 2007 at 5:25 PM EDT

JUDY WOODRUFF: The numbers are starting to roll in from the first quarter of ’07, giving us an early picture of how the ’08 presidential race is shaping up.

The news today was that Democrat Barack Obama raked in $25 million, just $1 million short of Senate colleague Hillary Clinton, who many had expected would be far ahead in dollars. John Edwards was next with $14 million.

There’s also a surprise among the Republicans. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney brought in $23 million, ahead of both former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Sen. John McCain.

Well, here to help explain what it means and how it’s done is Jeanne Cummings. She covers money for the Politico.

Jeanne, thank you for being here.

JEANNE CUMMINGS, The Politico: Sure.

JUDY WOODRUFF: We know that the records were broken, and we’re going to talk about that in just a minute. But first of all remind us why the money makes so much difference this year.

JEANNE CUMMINGS: Well, first of all, the money, this early money in particular, is a demonstration that a candidate can draw big support. These are all candidates who — many of them aren’t that well-known. They need to demonstrate that they can get up there and draw big support from people. And the money does that.

And it, also, if you come in, in a good spot, it makes people take a second look. There might have been some who thought that Obama was a flash in the pan. Well, if he can raise as much money as Hillary Clinton, people say, “Well, let’s learn a little bit more about him.” So it sends a signal.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Having said that, records were broken, both in terms of totals, comparing Democrats and Republicans. A surprise: the Democrats overall far ahead of the Republicans.

JEANNE CUMMINGS: Thirty million dollars roughly. These are still estimates that we’ve gotten from the campaigns, but it really is a striking turnaround. And it tells us a whole lot about the energy level in the Democratic Party versus the Republican Party and also how well the Democrats have done at mastering the use of the Internet as a way to raise money, because it’s a very efficient way to raise money.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, again, the total for the Democrats was what, $80 million?

JEANNE CUMMINGS: It’s about $80 million for the Democrats, and the Republicans came in around $50 million. There are a few million here and there because of the smaller candidates. Some did better than we think are second-tiered, but that’s roughly it, $30 million in between.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And you were telling me, this is mirrored out in the campaign, the congressional campaign committees, as well. It’s not just in the presidential.

JEANNE CUMMINGS: Yes, this slowdown in Republican giving is across the board.

Obama wins expectations game

JUDY WOODRUFF: Jeanne, Obama the big story on the Democratic side.

JEANNE CUMMINGS: Definitely. Everyone knew he was going to do well, because he had so much energy behind him. It would be hard for him not to do well. But to match Hillary Clinton, no one expected.

So that was a big boost for his campaign. When it comes to the expectations game, he was the clear winner. And he just broke the race into a wide-open primary. There's no clear frontrunner in this race anymore, and, you know, now they can duke it out together.

JUDY WOODRUFF: A hundred thousand contributors, is that another record-breaking number?

JEANNE CUMMINGS: The Democrats...


JEANNE CUMMINGS: Certainly, for Obama, and he beat Hillary Clinton by a lot. She reported that 50,000 people had given donations to her campaign, and then he comes out, three or four days later, saying he had 100,000.

So he had twice as many people who support him in a way that they'd actually put a dollar down for him. That's a good start for his campaign. That's a big foundation, twice as big as hers, for him to build on.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So his was mostly small donors or a combination?

JEANNE CUMMINGS: It's a combination. They're all a combination. He has a lot of small donors, though; roughly a third of his money came from the Internet. And those are generally small checks.

And the advantage there is what Howard Dean did in '04, is you can back to these people and back to these people, and they can help you raise money throughout the primary period, because it takes them a long time to max out.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I saw, what, $7 million for Obama raised just on the Internet in this quarter?

JEANNE CUMMINGS: That is as much money as John Kerry raised in the first quarter in 2003.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Altogether?


JUDY WOODRUFF: And Obama did this just on the Internet.

JEANNE CUMMINGS: Just on the Internet.

Clinton gains from major events

JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, Hillary Clinton, still she raised $26 million. She was still number one.

JEANNE CUMMINGS: Definitely. You know, her campaign goes back to that. At the end of the day, we raised more. And at the end of the day, they have more money in the bank, because she transferred $10 million from her Senate account, so she has $36 million in the bank. She didn't obviously raise that $10 million in the first quarter.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, again, her money came from a mix of small and large donors?

JEANNE CUMMINGS: Small and large, but hers is weighted heavily towards -- we've got to see the final reports in a couple weeks to know for sure. She did well on the Internet, you know, around the $5 million mark.

But hers is weighted more heavily to major events. They held a lot of big events, where either she was the headliner or her husband was the headliner. And that's the more classic way for a presidential candidate to raise money in the first quarter: You go back to your core givers.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And you still had some significant sums down the line. John Edwards, $14 million, took some work on his part; $6 million on the part of Governor Richardson...

JEANNE CUMMINGS: Governor Richardson.

JUDY WOODRUFF: ... $4 million, Senator Dodd. So, again, these people are not slouches when it comes to raising money.

JEANNE CUMMINGS: No. And when you go down into the second tier and see those kinds of sums, that's where you have a real telling of the activists and how excited and energized they are.

McCain suffers from poor planning

JUDY WOODRUFF: Let's talk about the Republicans. What happened to John McCain?

JEANNE CUMMINGS: Well, John McCain is, for what we know for sure, is his financial fundraising apparatus was woefully inadequate. It simply didn't exist, from the sounds of it.

He had the lion's share of President Bush's bundlers, remember, the rangers and the pioneers. He recruited the most of them. Mitt Romney got some. But he then didn't put the pieces around them to help them raise the money.

For instance, the easiest way a bundler has to raise money is to have an event where the candidate is going to be there. And so they call all their friends, they call all their co-workers and say, "Help me reach my goal. Write me a check. There's an event on Friday. We'll all sit at the same table." Well, then the people cough up the check.

In McCain's case, they didn't have the Friday event, so they could call all their friends, and say, "Sure, sure, I'll send you a check." But they didn't send them.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Is this just poor planning on their part?

JEANNE CUMMINGS: Oh, yes, this is definitely poor planning, and that's why they're retooling completely. And they are going to put all of these things in place, and I suspect we'll see a very different second quarter.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Just quickly, the bundlers are big in all of these campaigns. They're the ones who call and get and collect a number of others who give a total of $100,000 or $200,000 from all their friends?

JEANNE CUMMINGS: That's right. They get checks of $2,300 from all of their friends and bundle together $100,000 and give it. And that is what they are credited with providing to the campaign.

Second quarter to tell more

JUDY WOODRUFF: But just quickly, on the Republican side, Mitt Romney out front, $23 million. Then you had Rudy Giuliani with, what, $15 million...

JEANNE CUMMINGS: Fifteen million.

JUDY WOODRUFF: ... and then McCain with $12.5 million.

Very, very quickly, Jeanne, second quarter. You were saying to us that we paid a lot of attention to the first quarter. Second quarter is going to matter more, just because they're going to raise more of the same or what?

JEANNE CUMMINGS: No, the second quarter will tell us different things. It will tell us whether John McCain can recover. It will tell us whether Mitt Romney can keep up the momentum. And it will tell us if Obama can keep up with Hillary or perhaps surpass her. It will tell us, can Edwards keep up with the two front ones? Very different messages in the second quarter.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So March 31st a big deal. June the 31st will also be a very big deal. Jeanne Cummings with Politico, thank you very much.

JEANNE CUMMINGS: You're welcome.