In what might be a an effort to lower expectations, a top aide in the presidential campaign of Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., predicted Wednesday that the former first lady would raise twice as much money in the first three months of her 2008 campaign as former Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., did in the first quarter of his 2004 presidential bid.
Senior Clinton adviser Ann Lewis told ABC News, "It's a high goal. It doubles the highest that anybody raised in '04.
"We're thinking positively. We're thinking we've got the campaign, we've got the team and I think there's a lot of interest and excitement out there and we feel we can get there," Lewis said, speaking to reporters following a meeting of Clinton's fundraising team in Washington.
Money by the Million Dollar Bundle
Clinton will try to to hit her fundraising mark by using "bundlers," or mega contributors, who go beyond the $2,300 personal donation cap by raking in tens of millions of dollars through associates and friends.
The second-term senator has refused to reveal the names of her big bundlers -- who have been tasked to raise upward of $1 million apiece -- and in so doing has come under heavy criticism. The Washington Post's editorial board Monday called the Clinton campaign's $1 million bundler goal "appalling."
Lewis avoided answering a question about whether Clinton would disclose the names of her bundlers as President Bush did in both of his presidential campaigns and as her nomination rival, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., has pledged to do.
"You'll have to check with the people who are actually doing the work of putting the finance team together," said Lewis. "I'm not part of that."
Clinton Team Strategizes Fundraising Blitz
Clinton's presidential campaign revealed its fundraising expectations on a day when the senator and her top campaign advisers met with some of her biggest fundraisers and supporters at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Washington.
In addition to meeting with the candidate herself, Clinton's supporters heard from three top aides: campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle, pollster Mark Penn and media consultant Mandy Grunwald.
In the closed-door session, Doyle discussed "winning the talent primary," while Penn detailed state and independent polling data showing Clinton leading in early-nominating and caucus states.
Grunwald showed the audience a collection of the senator's 2006 Senate campaign ads, as well as some of the videos appearing on Clinton's presidential campaign Web site, according to Lewis.
Raking Campaign Cash
When Clinton's key financial backers emerged from the meeting they were enthusiastic about the prospects of electing the first female president in U.S. history.
"I think there's no one who encompasses the interest of this nation more effectively," said Edie Fraser, who has already made a contribution to the campaign and hopes to find friends to do the same. "I've got people all over the country that are just passionate, totally passionate."
Suzy Ballantyne of New York said she has already given the campaign $1,000, and that she hopes to travel the country to help Clinton raise money.
"I think she'd make a great president, and I'm planning to tell others to help her out," Ballantyne said.
Wednesday's event was part of a weeklong effort in Washington to raise a record amount of campaign cash as team Clinton gets ready to flex its fundraising muscles in front of Democratic nomination rivals Edwards and Obama.
Opting Out of Public Financing
The contours of the cash contest became clearer when Obama's campaign confirmed that he would join Clinton and Edwards in forgoing public financing for the primary and general election. By bypassing the public funds, he would be allowed to accept $4,600 from individual contributors in both the primary and general election.
On the Republican side, none of the major candidates have said they'd opt out of public funds but analysts expect them to follow suit so as not to yield a competitive advantage.
One Republican contender, former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, raised $6.5 million in pledges and donations at a single event.
Former New York Republican Mayor Rudolph Giuliani reportedly has $1 million in cash on hand after he raised $1.3 million in the fourth quarter of last year.
Sen. John McCain R-Ariz., reportedly has a half a million dollars in the bank.