McAuliffe: ‘$10 trillion’ first quarter

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s (D-N.Y.) presidential campaign was the first to tip its hand as to how much money it might have raised during the first part of the year.

“We’re going to raise $10 trillion the first quarter,” Terry McAuliffe, longtime Clinton friend and former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, told the crowd at a Washington kick-off fundraiser for Clinton on Tuesday.

Although McAuliffe was clearly joking, Clinton, who was joined by her husband, raked in $2.7 million at her event. She leads the money race among Democratic candidates, who have all been sprinting toward the end of the first quarter, hitting every figurative ATM along the way.

The campaigns of Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) can boast of fundraisers reaping astronomical figures. But other campaigns, often described as second-tier, are merely looking to raise enough to advance to the next round, as first-quarter financial reports are due March 31.

The campaigns of Sens. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) have said they will raise enough to be competitive and get their message out, but all three campaigns declined to comment on how much they expect to raise for the first three months of the year.

While Clinton is in a position to roll over about $11 million from her Senate race to her presidential race, Dodd and Biden can roll over only about $5 million and $2 million, respectively.

Obama’s campaign is projected to report between $8 million and $10 million, but one campaign source said it is expecting that figure to be higher.

Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said only that the campaign is “proud of the grassroots support for change we have gotten from all across the country.”

Meanwhile, the campaign of former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) has been giving many analysts and observers fits as they try to speculate on his fundraising success, or lack thereof.

Playing the expectations game, Edwards’s campaign has said only that the two frontrunners would raise more money than the rest of the field — but that Team Edwards would raise enough to play.

“Sens. Clinton and Obama have the capacity to raise enormous amounts of cash, no question,” Edwards’s spokeswoman, Kate Bedingfield, said. “But fundraising is about making sure that you have enough money to get your message out to voters so that they can decide who will best represent them in the White House, and we will have the resources we need to do just that.”

Dodd’s campaign has said it needs to raise between $25 million and $30 million for the year to be competitive for the nomination. A spokesman said this week that the campaign planned to have raised enough in the first quarter to meet his “financial and organizational” needs.

Dodd told The Hill Wednesday that he was expecting “a very credible number.” But he conceded his campaign “won’t have anywhere near … the level of support that probably what they call the first tier … will have raised.”

Many observers expect Dodd to do well this quarter, as he is raising money while also serving as chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.

“It’s helped in the sense that when I go and speak to these organizations I know what they do for a living, and I know what they go through,” he said.

A source in Biden’s camp acknowledged it had gotten off to a “rocky start” with the senator’s announcement, when he referred to Obama as “clean” and “articulate.” That led many to question his ability to negotiate successfully the treacherous terrain of presidential politics, where everything said can and will have an effect.

Larry Rasky, a Biden spokesman, conceded that the first two weeks following the announcement had been a distraction, but added that March “is getting stronger as we go along.”

The campaign has said it will need to raise $20 million to stay in the game through the South Carolina primary.
“We’re doing what we need to do as we go along and pick up steam,” Rasky said. “As long as we can still get to Iowa … in full fare, we’re going to be in the race.”

Rasky added that there are some people “who would prefer to make this campaign about money,” but that the Biden campaign would “run the race on our terms.”

“I think there are those who would like to make the campaign a self-fulfilling prophecy,” Rasky said, without specifying which campaigns he meant.

Richardson said recently he wouldn’t come in anywhere close to the top-tier candidates, even urging reporters to wait and take a look at his second-quarter numbers, but he insisted he would have enough to compete.

Although these second-tier candidates say they will post enough to stay afloat and advance their message, the campaigns that come up short at the trough will find themselves wanting and eventually quitting as the campaign moves along, said political analyst Charlie Cook.

“I think that campaigns will either be financially competitive or they won’t, with not much of a gray area in between,” Cook said. “The bar for what constitutes ‘competitive’ gets higher each cycle.

“I expect the fields in both parties will narrow considerably this year,” he added. “It’s a Darwinian process. Only the financially strongest survive.”

Ian Swanson contributed to this article.