Yesterday it was speculated that that Hillary Clinton's campaign was getting caught under growing debt while Barack Obama continues to raise massive amounts of money.
Today we learned more about the finances of the two campaigns. First, Obama's fundraising:
Senator Barack Obama’s campaign announced today that more than 442,000 contributors across the country gave more than $40 million in March. More than 218,000 donors contributed to the campaign for the first time, and the average contribution level was $96.
"Senator Obama has always said that this campaign would rise or fall on the willingness of the American people to become partners in an effort to change our politics and start a new chapter in our history," campaign manager David Plouffe said. "Today we’re seeing the American people’s extraordinary desire to change Washington, as tens of thousands of new contributors joined the more than a million Americans who have already taken ownership of this campaign for change. Many of our contributors are volunteering for the campaign, making our campaign the largest grassroots army in recent political history."
One of the truisms of campaign fundraising is that if you're not going after max donors ($2,300 for the primary, $2,300 for the general), then the key is getting donors in to the pipeline early. When someone contributes once, they're more likely to contribute again. We're seeing the confirmation of this belief with Obama's fundraising. He's bringing in new donors, but he has hundreds of thousands of donors making repeated contributions.
March was arguably Obama's worst month of the campaign. He wasn't able to take advantage of his shot to knock Clinton out of the race by winning the primaries in Ohio and Texas (and yes, I know, he got more delegates out of Texas, but he didn't win the primary). Clinton got a bit of a bounce after the March 4th contests. Then the Jeremiah Wright story blew up on Obama. His poll numbers tanked in the middle of the month. His extraordinary speech on race in Philadelphia has helped him recover, but he probably lost well over a week of momentum, so one would expect his fundraising to have suffered.
Obviously it didn't. Based on what the Clinton campaign leaked to Time, that Clinton didn't hit $20 million, and adding in the $13 million raised by McCain, Obama raised more money in March than both his Democratic and Republican rivals combined.
That leads us to the second thing about fundraising we've learned today: the Clinton campaign is financially screwed; from Ben Smith at The Politico:
Clinton aide Howard Wolfson suggested that Hillary's tax returns will be out today or tomorrow:
"She said late last week that they would be out within a week and so you can count on that," he said.
Wolfson also said Clinton's fundraising totals would be out when the filings are due, around April 20.
People have started asking whether Clinton is going broke. Obama is outspending her 5-1 on TV. Now, for probably the first time in the campaign, the Clinton campaign is refusing to divulge their finances until they're required by law.
There is no plausible explanation for why the campaign would refuse to release their fundraising totals except that the news is dreadful. Releasing her tax returns today, which they've refused to do for months, appears to be a diversionary tactic, something to buy them a few days of avoiding having to ignore too many questions about whether the campaign is in debt and going broke.
We know why Obama might have had a tough month fundraising. Why would Clinton's fundraising go in the tank?
One obvious answer, that savvy people have predicted for some time, is that Clinton's fundraising was heavily skewed toward people who gave the maximum donation. When those folks gave their $2,300 for the primary, they were done. They can't give any more money to her for the primary. Unlike Obama, she doesn't have a comparatively deep well from which to draw repeat contributions.
Another possibility, though, is that some of Clinton's potential donors are just as angry with the divisive and racial direction of her campaign as many other Democrats. If you're from a state that Clinton's campaign says doesn't matter, why would you contribute to her campaign? If you want to heal rather than exacerbate racial divides in the United States, why would you reward her for the campaign she's conducted?
It would be great for the party if Hillary Clinton would admit she won't be the nominee, and step aside so Obama can focus exclusively on defeating John McCain. By staying in a contest she can't win, Hillary Clinton is imposing an opportunity cost on Democrats by keeping Obama from being able to devote his full resources from taking on John McCain. But even though she refuses to admit she shouldn't continue, at some point, her bank account may insist that she admit to the world, and admit to herself, that she will not win, that Barack Obama will be our Presidential nominee.