Clinton campaign manages expectations, spins itself out of financial trouble

The Clinton campaign has admirably used the past 2 days, managing to recover from the early post-Super Tuesday perception that Barack Obama was in a better shape going forward. Say what you will about the Clinton campaign, but it is a remarkably well-run machine that knows how to spin stories to its advantage.

The intrusion of money in the debate on Wednesday seemed like the harbinger of more bad things to come. Not only was Hillary loaning herself $5,000,000 but her top aides were going without pay. The media jumped on board to paint Clinton as swamped under Obama's fundraising prowess, fueled by the huge January discrepancy ($32 million for Obama versus $13.5 million for Clinton). In a campaign that is now going long, Clinton cannot afford to run out of money.

As a result of this setting of expectation, the news today that Clinton had raised more than $6 million in the 24 hours following the primary was seen as an unexpected recovery. While Obama raised $7 million in the same time, the fact that Clinton managed to stay mostly on par with him is now looking to be a sign that she is still financially alive and that she can compete in the coming weeks. And also surfaced today that the Clinton staffers were not going unpaid after all.

The campaign's setting-up of expectations worked beautifully, and it managed to turn a $1 million deficit in fundraising into a show of force. This is not to say that Clinton's financial troubles weren't real nor that the sum they raised is not impressive -- neither of these claims (which some are now making) is true. But most other campaigns would have not known how to deal with such difficult conditions and certainly would not have been able to turn them into a positive news cycle.

(1) There is unmistakable evidence that Clinton was financially far behind Obama in the run-up to February 5th. They did not run ads or compete in some states where Obama was airing ads, particularly in the caucus states. And that alone accounts for why Obama got such high margins in those states. Had Clinton been able to organize a bit more in some of these places, she would not have won but she could have come in slightly stronger and saved a few delegates.

(2) In addition, today's financial recovery does prove that the Clinton campaign still has a formidable fundraising machine. They attracted many new donors in the past 48 hours, which is a huge source of relief for them as they need to increase their donor base desperately.

(3) Explanations for the Obama-Clinton fundraising discrepancy are now being offered that look much more favorable to Clinton than the more basic storyline of Obama being on fire. Rather, some observers are now explaining that the fundraising gap is partly explained by the fact that Obama's constituency is more middle-to-upper class, while Clinton's base are blue-collar voters, not known for being big donors. From the TNR's Josh Patashnik comes this:

Similarly, Hillary raised money in the way she did (by shaking down a whole bunch of rich friends) because her blue-collar supporters aren't the type of people who make a ton of small donations.

Obama's been so successful with his fundraising model mostly because the type of people who support him--namely, well-educated liberals who are affluent but not spectacularly wealthy--are the type of people generally inclined to give $100 or $200 to a candidate who inspires them.

On TPM Cafe, Jim Sleeper makes a similar case: "Obama is in trouble if - and I'm not yet sure about this too many of his famously small $20 and $30 contributions come not from the people of the lower-middle and working classes."And he goes on to criticize the motivation of some Obama supporters (note that Sleeper has announced that he voted for Obama):

I fear that too many young whites with bright prospects have no really serious intention of redressing the growing inequities which the neoliberal world that employs them is spawning... They grasp at mostly symbolic gestures of a politics of moral posturing that relieves racial and class guilt and steadies their moral self-regard with smallish contributions to Obama, an Ivy alum whom they trust to help those people on the Southside without dragging them too deeply into it.

This is certainly not the type of narrative Obama wants to accompany his fundraising prowess; and the Illinois Senator faces enough criticism that he is relying on independent voters that aren't registered Democrats to not want to also call attention to the fact that Clinton is typically stronger among the working-class.

(4) Finally, the Clinton campaign does not need to raise as much money as Obama. States will be voting at a slow rate now, and Clinton just needs to have enough to compete one week at a time. And she clearly will have the means to do that after yesterday's demonstration. Already, the campaign has bought air time in Washington, Nebraska, Maine and next Tuesday's Potomac states. They also announced that they were gearing up to send ads into Texas and Ohio as early as next week! The Nebraska ad features former Senator Bob Kerrey, a very popular figure in the state.

The campaign's decision to go up in those states is very interesting. Nebraska, for example, holds the kind of contest that was fatal to Clinton on Tuesday: A very red-state caucus. Clinton recognizes that she cannot afford to go down that many delegates in such small states. She got 12 delegates less than Obama in Idaho, for example: Obama got more of a delegate lead in Idaho than Clinton did out of New Jersey!

Meanwhile, the Clinton campaign has found another way of pressing her advantage. She challenged Obama to weekly debates throughout February, and Obama declined. Now, he is clearly right in saying that Clinton's proposed schedule was excessive; in fact Obama's counter-proposal of two debates until March 4th sounds very reasonable. But the Obama campaign is not managing this spin war very well, and Clinton's knows what it's doing. Maine's television, for example, covered Obama's refusal to appear in a town-hall with Clinton in a way that can't make Obama too happy considering that the election is only in a few days.


  • Press spin is becoming Irrelevant.

    Either she puts points on the board, or she doesn't.

    People have figured out this is a race to 2025. 5 states in the next 7 days = 536 delegates.

    In the next 5 days, ALL talk about Feb5 will dissapear, and only the score on the board remains.

    Personally I like it, It removes the press from the process.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 08 February, 2008 05:38  

  • Point #2. The expectations game really doesn't work anymore.

    The elections are 2 close together. They will be voting again in less than 26 hours.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 08 February, 2008 05:46  

  • It was 7.5 million from 40,000 new donors that rescued Hillary. Averaging that is about $188 each. Hardly "shaking down" rich donors. While I might be rich by national standards, my hundred bucks is a pretty small donation. I'm quite sure the 40,000 like me could afford to do it again many times.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 08 February, 2008 07:22  

  • maybe the author should note that Obama lost in all the major must-win states for democrats : California, New York, New Jersey, MA, Michigan, and the all-important swing state of Florida. And where did he win? Tiny voter-disenfranchising caucuses filled with liberal activists in states that have zero hope in the general election : Utah, Idaho, Kansas. And to counter the "red-state electability" argument by Obama camp, noticed how she won OK, AR, and TN. Hillary's best chance is so win Arkansas due to home-state advantage, then simply add a win in either MO or VA, and that already crosses 270. On the other hand, can someone tell me which states can Obama win that will put us over 270? Hope sounds good, and change sounds good, but it comes down to electoral college math.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 08 February, 2008 08:19  

  • My thought exactly for the longest time. I have no animus toward Obama, I just thing that that in our electoral system, where you have to get 270 electoral vo0tes to winhj, he is unelectable. The truly amazing thing is that so many are taking the Republican spin. that they don’t want Obama as the nominee, line, hook, and sinker! Somebody, one of you Obamabots, hafve to explain me the math that get Obama 270 electoral votes. Kerry had 252 electoral votes in 2004. To that you add New Mexico and Iowa that any democrat should be able to win and you get 264 electoral votes. Where the other 6 votes come from? Just give me one little miserly state that he can pry away? Socially conservative Ohio? The republicans will hammer him there with the license for illegal aliens issue and being black will not be great advantage in rural Ohio. And yes, race will be an issue, please do not be so naïve. That leave Florida where 20% of the electorate is Latino. Should I say more? One state. Gime that one state that he collor blue? I am so very depress because this is what I had feared from the beginning. A bunch of wide eyed liberal activist high jacking the party again and giving us another McGovern.

    By Anonymous Robert_V, At 08 February, 2008 10:57  

  • If you think we should end the culture of super delegates, sign this petition: www.myspace.com/endsuperdelegatesnow

    By Blogger Eze, At 08 February, 2008 11:55  

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