(from the politico)
Fundraising Reports Not Likely To Pack Knockout in WH Race
By: Jeanne Cummings and Kenneth P. Vogel
March 29, 2007 08:48 AM EST
The much hyped first-quarter fundraising deadline for presidential candidates is unlikely to fundamentally scramble the leader board of either party, an outcome that will surely increase pressure on them to keep up the pace in the next quarter.
Fear of being caught by surprise by a competitor and knocked out of the top tier has driven all the campaigns into a frenzied money-raising mode. Fundraising events are scheduled right up to Saturday's midnight deadline.
The tallies for the first three months of this year, due to the Federal Election Commission by April 15, are likely to set a first-quarter fundraising record. And the presidential campaign is expected to be the nation's first $1 billion race.
"Everybody's going to have a decent quarter," predicted Fred Baron, finance chairman for Democratic hopeful John Edwards.
So while there may be some reordering of the top fields, it appears as though a knockout punch is not in the offing. Democrats Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama and Edwards and Republicans John McCain, Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney are the front-runners going into Saturday's deadline and expected to remain after it, even if one falls short in the expectations game.
That could mean the broader impact of the first-quarter reports will be twofold: Elevating the importance of second-quarter fundraising, when the front-runners must show they can maintain momentum, and providing a pecking order to the second-tier candidates who are trying to cling to fourth place and a chance to break through later.
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"The candidates now are generally gathering donations from core supporters and pre-identified donors," said Anthony J. Corrado Jr., a campaign finance expert at Colby College in Maine. "In the second quarter, we will see who is moving beyond their base and building a national fundraising base."
The primary reason for this cycle's heated first-quarter pace is Edwards' surprising showing in 2003, when he outraised Democratic front-runner John F. Kerry and catapulted to the top of the primary field.
But later quarters also have a history of reshaping primary contests. In 1999, George W. Bush raised $29.5 million between April and July 1 when he was governor of Texas, and within weeks, lesser-funded candidates began dropping out of the GOP race. In 2003, Howard Dean pulled in $15 million in the third quarter, dramatically reshaping the primary's leading candidate roster and elevating the war in Iraq as an issue.
Republican Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, is trying to emerge as his party's candidate of choice for conservatives much as Dean captured the Democrat's liberal wing. "The debates are going to really start showing what the candidates are about and, on those nights, we're not going to be wearing name tags with how much money we raised," Huckabee said.
Even so, in these final hours of the first quarter, the candidates are still racing for last-minute donations.
Huckabee will hold a Washington fundraiser Thursday night headlined by Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska). Clinton and Obama, as well as Romney, will close the quarter with events in Florida. Edwards continues a tour through West Virginia, Indiana and Ohio before winding up at a Saturday fundraising event in home state North Carolina.
Candidates hoping to become "tier jumpers" are also working the circuit and many have the ability to record their own eye-catching numbers in the first quarter. And former FEC chairman Michael E. Toner says that could draw fresh attention from the news media and donors "and suddenly you have to treat them like they're in the top tier."
Much attention will focus on Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), who ended the year with nearly $5 million in his campaign account that can be transferred to his presidential coffers. He also can tap his wealthy hometown constituents and others in nearby New York. His ascendance to chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee provides an advantage by bringing him into regular contact with deep-pocketed lobbyists and executives.
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Cabinet secretary in the Clinton administration, has a history of generating cash. He raised $14 million for his reelection campaign last year. He also has a national fundraising network cultivated during his leadership of the Democratic Governors Association and the 2004 Democratic National Convention.
His campaign manager, Dave Contarino, says Richardson will have a "respectable" first quarter total. But his primary focus will be on the early primary states, particularly nearby Nevada.
"We believe that the governor has a lot of attributes that Westerners like and that the voters in Nevada will like. We're going to be expected to show something in Nevada, but that doesn't change the fact that in Iowa, where I realize that the press has zero expectations for the governor, and maybe New Hampshire, where they have zero plus one, we expect our candidate to do quite well," Contarino said. He added: "If we can show momentum and start to take off, then the money will follow."
Similar strategies are being adopted on the Republican side. Former Wisconsin governor Tommy G. Thompson, who served in the Bush Cabinet, raised $6.5 million for his last gubernatorial campaign in 1998, giving him a home state base to tap. On the presidential field, he is banking on a good showing in the Aug. 11 straw poll in Iowa to elevate his candidacy later in the cycle, says spokesman Tony Jewell.
Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) has also been quietly working Iowa, hoping his deep roots in the agriculture community and long-standing ties to the conservative wing of the GOP will give him momentum. But he's got competition for the conservative moniker from Huckabee and former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore.
Gilmore did not hold his first fundraiser until Monday, a week before the end of the first quarter. His campaign consultant, Christian Josi, said Gilmore raised $200,000 and will pick up the fundraising pace in the second quarter. However, he said, Gilmore is not aiming to catch the front-runners.
"Our challenge is to emerge as the (conservative) alternative, as the fourth front-runner," Josi said. "And to do that, frankly, we don't need $100 million."
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