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The Clinton-Obama Money Chase Continues [UPDATED]

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, April 24 2008

So now the Clinton campaign is walking back has clarified its post-PA fundraising numbers (and I'm clarifying my post as well). As I noted yesterday, the campaign's finance co-chair Hassan Nemazee left the distinct impression with both the Washington Post and Business Week that the campaign had somehow pulled in more than $10 million "overnight" from Tuesday's Pennsylvania primary.

Indeed, the Business Week story by Jane Sasseen puts this right in the lede:

Just minutes into her victory speech in Philadelphia, Clinton made a plea to her supporters in the crowd—and the many more watching on TV—to head to her Web site and make a donation. "Tonight, more than ever, I need your help to continue this journey. We can only keep winning if we can keep competing with an opponent who outspends us so massively. So I hope you'll go to hillaryclinton.com and show your support tonight because the future of this campaign is in your hands."

Clinton's campaign advisers have clearly been counting on her victory to restock the till, and her Philadelphia plea appears to have paid off: according to Hassan Nemazee, the national finance chair for the Clinton campaign, by 2 p.m. on Wednesday the campaign had taken in $10 million—half of the $21 million it took in for the entire month of March. Just as important, he adds, many were new donors. More than 80% of the 60,000 who pledged had never given money to the Clinton campaign before. [emphasis added]

I knew those numbers were fishy, because they implied a truly astounding average online donation level of close to $200, and no one is seeing that. Rule of thumb is around $100 per donation these days. Indeed, the Clinton campaign's internet director, Peter Daou, has this morning given me this on-the-record clarification on their fundraising:

In response to your post about our post-PA fundraising, I wanted to help clarify any confusion. During the course of the 24 hours after the race was called for Sen. Clinton, the astonishing pace of contributions led to a series of updates in the press. If you look at the campaign's afternoon press release, Terry McAuliffe's $10 million figure was a projection of where we'd end up by the end of the day. However, the donor number he mentioned was the latest info he had at the time he was speaking to MSNBC, which was around midday. The sequence of updates was as follows: we were at $2.5 million the night of the election, over $3 million when Sen. Clinton went on the morning shows, $5 million before noon, and Terry McAuliffe projected out the rest of the day. The $10 million goal was then announced on the site late last night.

This note from Daou is as interesting for what it doesn't say. He doesn't address Nemazee's claims directly, though he clearly is rebutting them. He also indirectly admits that the campaign actually hasn't raised $10 million, at least not yet--that it's an announced goal.

UPDATE: OK, this is what I misunderstood from Daou's email to me. The Clinton campaign actually did hit $10 million last night in post-PA donations, an amount he quite justifiably calls astounding. (Up til now, Clinton's single best day of fundraising was Feb. 6, when she took in $4 million after announcing that she had loaned herself $5 million in stopgap funds.)

Curiously, the New York Times Jeff Zeleny and John M. Broder are reporting in today's paper that "Campaign officials said they raised $10 million in online donations in the 24 hours after her Pennsylvania victory, the campaign’s best one-day money haul. The contributors included at least 70,000 new donors, the officials said." Today's Washington Post also buys the $10 million claim, with a headline reading "With New Cash, Clinton Moves to A New Venue; $10 Million Added as Ind. Effort Begins."

My guess as to what is actually going on here: A lot of people are indeed responding to Clinton's direct appeal for help, and the televised reference to her campaign url and the donation splash page are clearly working. At the same time, some of the campaign's top officials are getting ahead of themselves, and some working reporters are too busy to check on the validity of their claims.

Bottom line: Is this really that big a deal? After Super Tuesday, Clinton reported some 300,000 online donations, including 200,000 new donors. Another 70,000 isn't bad, but it's not like she's actually doing better in this business than she did in February. At least not yet.

[UPDATE: Daou confirmed for me that as of this morning, the Clinton campaign had tallied about 100,000 donations since Tuesday night, of which about 80% was from new donors. I retract whatever skepticism I had about the NYT and WP reports above, given these new numbers about total donors. It appears that the Times used the campaign's $10M claim without bothering to update the 70,000 donation factoid--hence my confusion.]

Meanwhile, late yesterday, the Obama campaign sent out its own email to supporters asking them to match or beat Clinton's post-PA numbers (using $3.5 million as a target). It looks like even without that push, the Obama campaign probably took in $5 million in the 24 hours since the polls closed in the Keystone State, judging by the upticks on its donation widget from 1.375 million donors to 1.423 million. (Credit this Kos blogger for watching closely.) As of this morning, their tally is up to 1.439 million donors, which implies perhaps another $1.5 million or so for Obama's war-chest. So far.