There is no other way to put it: not only did Sen. Barack Obama set a record for single quarter donations by a Democratic candidate, but his fundraising total -- $31M from 154,000 new donors -- imposes an obligation on all of us who cover the race: we need to figure out why the "national" frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, isn't generating as much excitement as her chief competitor.
A whole tranche of the political press has been verging on pronouncing the active phase of Obama's campaign dead -- and re-asserting Sen. Clinton's "inevitable" claim on the nomination. But the evidence belies those assertions.
A quarter of a million Democratic donors are hungry for something different, and they've invested direclty in Barack Obama. Yes -- Obama's supporters tend to be a bit more upscale that Clinton's base -- but the breadth of his support can't really be explained away by an appeal to political demography.
The Democrats want to win, and most know that with Clinton, they start with massive negatives in a general campaign. Marc fisks campaign manager David Plouffe's memo here. My take-home stat:
258,000 Americans have never contributed to a campaign this early.
He remains behind in the polling. But it's very early, and his name recognition is still not in Clinton's ballpark. Plouffe argues:
Some of our opponents have tried to deflect attention from the obvious power and momentum of the movement we’re building by pointing to national polls, that are all but meaningless. Indeed, at this juncture four years ago, Joe Lieberman had a solid lead in national polls. In the fall of 2003, the leaders were Howard Dean and Wesley Clark. You’ll recall, none of these men were the nominee.
I think the Obama-Clinton contest is probably the real contest for the presidency. It will go down to the wire, but Obama's achievement as a freshman senator so far suggests to me that there is a real phenomenon here. And it could change America.
(Photo: Jeff Haynes/AFP/Getty.)