Clinton Faces a Cash Crunch

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Brian Snyder / Reuters

Democratic presidential candidate Senator Hillary Clinton listens to a question from a voter during a campaign stop in Portsmouth, New Hampshire January 7, 2008.

Along with a change of her political fortunes as the result of her devastating loss in Iowa and dropping poll numbers in New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton's once-flush presidential campaign now faces a problem that few would have expected at this point: a sudden urgency to raise a lot of money fast.

With momentum against her and a battle plan that appears to be staking everything on the big and expensive states like New York and California, which hold their primaries on February 5, Clinton's campaign is putting new pressure on its fund raisers to come up with the cash she will need to carry her through. "Clearly, by every measure, I hear they are in a real financial crunch," says one prominent fund raiser. "Here's the dilemma: You have a situation where there clearly is a full-court press to raise more money, but considering the state of decline of the campaign, there's a real question of whether people are going to want to give. It's more than just raising money; you've got to give people a sense of potential."

One reason for the new drive to raise cash quickly is the fact that Clinton spent lavishly on what turned out to be a debacle in Iowa. Numbers circulating among fund raisers — but not confirmed by the campaign — suggest that the campaign may have as little as $15 million to $25 million left on hand. While that is enormous by historic standards, it is less than half the nearly $50.5 million she had at the end of September (when she enjoyed a significant advantage over Barack Obama's $36 million on hand).

What's more, campaign officials believe that Obama's Iowa victory has almost certainly been accompanied by a financial windfall for his campaign, particularly over the Internet, where he has had a far stronger operation than Clinton has. The Obama campaign declined to provide any figures, with spokesman Bill Burton saying only: "There's a lot of energy and enthusiasm, and it's continuing to increase."

Clinton fund raisers say there is also a new emphasis in the appeals they are getting from the campaign. Where they previously focused on bringing in $4,600 donations — pressing donors to "max out" by giving the legal limit of $2,300 for the primary election and $2,300 for the general — they are now being asked to drum up $2,300 contributions. "They started out running a general election campaign," says one. "Now there's a real fixation on the primary." The day after the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses, the campaign staged a "callathon" to encourage smaller contributions.

Clinton campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson notes that fund raising has always been a high priority for her operation, which he says continues on sound financial footing. "We have considerable resources," he says, adding that the campaign is flush enough to be buying large amounts of air time for television ads in New Hampshire, as well as in South Carolina and Nevada, where the next two contests will be held.