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Clinton's fund-raising bonanza unlikely to force rivals from race

PORTSMOUTH, N.H.—Don't listen to the cheering from her own campaign team. Ignore the media chatter about her "shattering" records.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York did not hit a home run with her first quarter of fund raising for the 2008 presidential campaign. A solid double, maybe. But not enough to scare serious rivals out of the race or establish her as the overwhelming front-runner for the Democratic nomination.

You wouldn't know that from the spin out of the Clinton headquarters.

"We are completely overwhelmed," Clinton campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle said, as the campaign insisted again with a straight face that its goal was $15 million, which would double what John Edwards raised when he led the Democratic field in its first quarter of hustling checks in 2003.


Edwards was an unknown senator from a midsize Southern state who tapped into fellow trial lawyers. Clinton is arguably the most famous woman in the world, with access to her husband's vast fund-raising network. She's also a senator from New York, the mother lode of Democratic campaign contributions. A New York Democrat should be able to pick up a few million just walking through the Pierre Hotel.

No, the real benchmark is George W. Bush.

Like Clinton, he launched his campaign from a large, wealthy state: Texas. Like Clinton, he had access to the fund-raising Rolodex of a former president: his dad.

Yet her $26 million fell short of Bush's $29 million in his first full quarter of raising money.

She broke records for Democrats, but not the big one.

True, she didn't have the full three months. She didn't start her campaign until Jan. 20.

But did she really miss much that first week after the holidays? Heck, fat cat contributors were still returning gifts to Barneys.

What's more, Bush set his record back when federal law said the most he could get from one person was $1,000. Thanks to new rules, contributors now can give up to $2,300 each.

Not everyone gives the maximum, of course. Some of the best contributions are for less, signaling a committed donor who can be tapped for more later.

But the big checks help boost the total.

Also, Bush raised only for the primary. Clinton also is raising for the general election, which allows contributors to give another $2,300 each. Her campaign wouldn't disclose how much of the $26 million is really for the general election. It doesn't have to reveal that until reports are due at the Federal Election Commission on April 15.

Rival John Edwards, who raised $14 million, said $13 million was for the primary competition, $1 million for the general election should he win the nomination. Barack Obama hasn't released his totals yet.

The important thing here is that few, if any, of Clinton's rivals for the Democratic nomination will be scared off or frozen out by her money.

Edwards' $13 million is more than enough to carry his campaign forward. Obama probably raised more.

Even so-called second-tier Democrats raised enough to wage credible campaigns, at least enough to keep them going.

Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico raised $6 million. Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut raised more than $4 million. Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware raised about $3 million.

Clinton may think she hit a home run, but she might want to look around the field. All of her serious rivals are still there—still in the game.


(Steven Thomma is chief political correspondent for the McClatchy Washington bureau. Write to him at: McClatchy Newspapers, 700 12th St. N.W., Suite 1000, Washington, DC 20005-3994, or e-mail

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