Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Stuff I Know
Obviously, money is important in political campaigns. Because of Hillary's fundraising hype, she must be a bit concerned that Obama has shockingly stayed with her step-for-step. She claims $10 mil more for the quarter, but that extra wasn't raised last quarter--it's a transfer from her Senate campaign. Also, surely more of her funds are committed to the general election and so off-limits in the primary. In reality, Obama raised more cash for the primary in Q1 than she did. In addition, his donors are smaller dollar, so they haven't given the limit yet and can be tapped for future donations as the primary continues.

All of that sounds great, and strangely familiar. Howard Dean claimed all the same advantages - along with Obama's penchant for drawing huge crowds to his rallies. That's all fabulous and probably scares the Clinton crowd more than a little. But here's what I know from 4 years ago: having the most money, the most donors, and the biggest rallies doesn't get you any convention delegates. Obama has an astonishing 100,000 donors for the quarter. But 100,000 national votes won't win much. To do better than Dean, he has to be able to close the deal. That's where the primary will be won or lost. If he can't do it, the lesson will continue that Internet-based, people-powered, low-dollar donor-driven campaigns are just a fundraising gimmick, not a winning strategy.

I'm excited about Obama. But trying to remember...after the second quarter of 2003, Howard Dean drew rock-star crowds, and was the leading fundraiser among Democrats. I'd rather be Obama than Chris Dodd right about now, but unless he uses the money effectively to persuade Democrats to vote for him - the ones who wouldn't even think about giving money to a political campaign - it doesn't mean much.

Even beyond that, you don't need that kind of cash to win in Iowa or New Hampshire or South Carolina but those are still likely to be most influential. Remember, Kerry was nowhere in NH and in SC until he won Iowa. Suddenly he's surging and wins all three. All the money in the world can't buy the momentum that winning an early state can. Dean tried to run a national campaign before the first primary vote. While he was doing that, Kerry had the best Iowa experts in the country on the ground organizing for the caucus.

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