Everyone hear that? That was the $32.5 million sound of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's inevitability melting away in the summer heat. Clinton aides can talk about polls, endorsements, and even trot out (as they are today) the single most popular Democrat on the planet, but that ignores the inconvenient fact that no actual human being has technically voted yet. As for some other measurements -- energy, enthusiasm, and (of course) financing, the edge at this mid-year moment belongs to Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.
Obama brought in a cool $10 million more than Clinton did in primary dollars during the second quarter -- a gap greater than former senator John Edwards' entire fund-raising haul for the three-month period. Clinton, D-N.Y., is also raising astronomical sums, and Edwards, D-N.C., is attracting enough cash to stay in the game, but something very real is powering the Obama campaign.
By the eye-popping numbers: Obama brought in more than $32.5 million in 90 days -- all but $1.5 million of it earmarked for the primaries -- for a six-month haul of $58 million, from 258,000 different donors. Forgetting for a moment the unavoidable (and instructive) comparisons to Howard Dean, in a word, Wow. "Obama's fundraising pace puts his candidacy on a course to match and possibly exceed the resources available to Clinton, a former first lady who came to the campaign with extensive ties to the Democratic establishment and a ready-made donor base," write Mike Dorning and John McCormick of the Chicago Tribune.
This is the backdrop ready for former President Bill Clinton upon his return to the campaign stage today. With much of the field hitting Iowa this week, he'll be there with his wife for a four-day campaign swing that starts tonight with an 8:30 pm ET rally at the Iowa State Fairgrounds.
If this does bring a boost (and realize how little attention there is these days to the downside of putting the former president on the trail), the Clinton campaign needs it: The leader in national polls already had an Iowa problem, and now she has an Obama problem that runs deeper than dollar signs. "Hillary Clinton may be the one consistently coming out top when Democratic voters are asked who they want to be their presidential candidate, but Barack Obama seems to be the one they reach into their wallets for," write Politico's Ben Smith and Richard Allen Greene.
One final point illuminated by the numbers: The Democratic field looks like it has three tiers now -- Obama and Clinton at the top, Edwards and Gov. Bill Richardson, D-N.M., in the next grouping, and everyone else bringing up the rear. Edwards reported topping $9 million for the quarter (meeting his publicly stated goal) while Richardson brought in $7 million -- respectable sums that were eclipsed by the top tier. The Edwards and Richardson camps say they are on track to compete in the early-voting states, but all the candidates are being lapped by Obama and Clinton. "An important subtext arising from the latest round of fund-raising reports is the growing distance between Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton and the second-tier candidates," writes The Wall Street Journal's Brody Mullins.
As for the Republicans, no numbers yet, which is not a good sign for them since they'd leak anything they're proud of. The GOPer with the most at stake in the second quarter, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., will avoid (most) tough questions about fund-raising for at least a few days: He's in Iraq, where he is planning on spending Independence Day with US troops. It's his first trip to the country since he drew criticism for his rosy assessment of the security situation there in April.
Wrapping up the weekend:
Republicans may be abandoning President Bush on the war, but Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., is sticking with the president's strategy -- and sounding more combative than Bush himself these days. "You might say that, in Iraq, we've got the enemy on the run, but for some reason, in Washington, a lot of politicians are on the run to order a retreat by our troops even as they are beginning to succeed," Lieberman told ABC's George Stephanopoulos on "This Week" yesterday. He also said -- surprise -- that he's not necessarily supporting a Democrat in 2008. "I would say that Democratic candidates, in the larger questions of American security, have been disappointing."
A must-read-and-digest piece in yesterday's Washington Post finds that all independents do not think alike, and are not necessarily a ready base for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, I-N.Y., or any other candidate. The Post's deep poll of independents finds them likely to tilt D again next year, "fueled by dissatisfaction with the president and opposition to the Iraq war," Dan Balz and Jon Cohen write. "Two-thirds said the war is not worth fighting, three in five said they think the United States cannot stabilize Iraq, and three in five believed that the campaign against terrorism can succeed without a clear victory in Iraq."
The Boston Globe finished its seven-part series on former governor Mitt Romney, R-Mass., on Saturday. Under the headline, "Ambitious Goals, Shifting Stances," the Globe's Brian Mooney, Stephanie Ebbert, and Scott Helman report on Romney's anemic record attracting new jobs to Massachusetts, and his inability to cultivate relationships with the Legislature. And while we know plenty about his shifting stances on abortion, gay rights, and gun rights, how about that veto of the "employer assessment" portion of his signature healthcare plan? "Politically, Romney was able to have it both ways," the Globe trio writes. "With a stroke of his pen, the would-be presidential candidate signed a landmark law and used his line-item veto to wash his hands of something resembling a tax increase to help pay for it."
With former senator Fred Thompson's decision month finally (we presume) upon us, The New York Times' David Kirkpatrick examines the lobbying work of his sons, who followed their father's footsteps into the business but "have scant qualifications other than their family ties." "Not only has he parlayed his own political background into a lobbying business -- a fact his opponents have seized on to challenge his outsider image -- but his sons have also made lobbying a family affair," Kirkpatrick writes.
The Washington Post's Michael Shear reports than a formal announcement is likely to come within the next two weeks, and that Thompson, R-Tenn., still can't decide if he's an insider or an outsider -- and doesn't yet know whether he'll bring back the red pickup truck that was his trademark back in Tennessee. "Even as he rushes to assemble the infrastructure for a presidential campaign, he is still struggling to define what his candidacy, and a potential Thompson presidency, will be about," Shear writes.
Democrats are dialing up their pressure on the White House in the fight over documents related to the fired US attorneys. Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy said yesterday that he would consider criminal attempt charges against the president if he continues to claim executive privilege. "If they don't cooperate, yes, I'd go that far," Leahy, D-Vt., said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Al Gore buzz from Asia over the weekend: A Taiwanese lawmaker said the Gore camp told him he was canceling "all his scheduled events in the next six months" because he is "considering a presidential bid." A curious claim from an odd source, and Gore spokeswoman Kalee Kreider called it "spurious," telling ABC's Jake Tapper that Gore will be plenty busy in the coming months.
Gore weighed in with a New York Times op-ed Sunday calling on the US to sign a new treaty agreeing to cut "global warming pollution by 90 percent in developed countries and by more than half worldwide in time for the next generation to inherit a healthy Earth." "This is not a political issue," he writes. "This is a moral issue, one that affects the survival of human civilization. It is not a question of left versus right; it is a question of right versus wrong."
As for shadow candidates on the other side of the aisle, former House speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., "is telling Republican insiders that his decision in September whether to run for president in 2008 depends on the progress of Fred Thompson's imminent candidacy," conservative columnist Robert Novak writes.
Former governor Tommy Thompson, R-Wis., set his own bar for next month's GOP straw poll in Ames, Iowa, saying what several other lagging candidates aren't admitting. "It's very much a must-win," Thompson told C-SPAN's Steve Scully in an interview airing last night, per ABC's Teddy Davis.
"Tiers, shmeers," Jonathan Prince, Edwards' deputy campaign manager, when asked about whether his candidate's second-quarter haul would oust him from the top grouping.
"Surprise, surprise, the media didn't get the dog story right. Our dog Seamus rode in an ENCLOSED kennel, not in the open air. And he loved it. . . . Yes, we love our dogs," Ann Romney, blogging on her husband's Website about the story that's got the animal-rights community abuzz. (Surprise, Ann, but your protestations notwithstanding, the original Boston Globe story got it right.)