Clinton Campaign Becomes Transparent, Briefly

Every so often, the Clinton campaign opens the door to its inner sanctum every so briefly, allowing reporters a glance at the thinking. The transparency is deliberate and selective. Today, reporters were invited to listen to the authentic, weekly conference call with major donors. (Reporters were not invited to listen to the same call the week after Barack Obama won South Carolina).

A hoarse-voiced Terry McAullife started things off by announcing that the campaign had raised 7.5M online since the beginning of the month and 6.4 million in the last 30 hours. "That has surprised me, and I'm the ultimate optimist," he said.

And, then "Hillary stepped up to the plate," he said, referring to her self-loan of $5M last month.

"By the way, all of our staff are going one hundred percent paid," he said, in reference to news reports that the senior staff had volunteered to work for free.

Chief strategist Mark Penn briefed the donors on the Feb 5 results, noting that Clinton wound up winning Massachusetts and New Jersey by double digit margins. He said he estimated that the campaign had approximately 53% of the delegates it needs to win the nomination. (With Florida and Michigan factored in, the number would rise only slightly -- to 54%.) Penn conceded that there'd be "bumps int he road over the next week or two" --- he's referring to the Potomac primary next week and the Louisiana Democratic caucus (although Clinton today won the endorsement of Sen. Blanche Lincoln). But "we have double digit leads in Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania."

Finance chief Jonathan Mantz next updated the donors on dates for upcoming fundraisers -- by my count, he listed at least a dozen high-dollar events scheduled for the next three weeks.

Then questions -- and perhaps because the donors knew that reporters were listening, they were softballs.

New York biggie Alan Patricoff said that Clinton's self-contribution "really showed people that she was prepared to go to the line," and that he'd had several donors call him and mention the same thing.

Former Amb. Ed Romero, who until a few weeks ago was finance chair for Gov. Bill Richardson's campaign, said, that he, too, "had a call from one of my guys who said, "if she's in, I'm in."

Another donor asked for more events with Chelsea, which prompted Penn to note that Clinton won the votes of the youngest demographic -- 18 to 29 year olds -- in California and Massachusetts.

Dallas's Debbie Branson, a former president of the state trial bar, implored the campaign to send Clinton down to Texas pronto. "Y'all need to get to Texas... Texans are not afraid of a strong, independent woman... we need you to get here."