The '08 Money Race

Downplaying Money in the Expectations Game

Reporters asked Clinton this month what it would mean for her campaign if Obama outraised her again in the second-quarter.

"It would mean nothing to my campaign. Nothing at all," Clinton replied.

Candidates and their campaign spin-doctors have been lowering expectations for how much they'll rake in, while raising expectations for their competitors' haul.

Political analysts say it's all part of the game.

"Winning the battle for campaign cash is the main goal, but winning the expectations game -- which has hit a fever pitch as the fundraising quarter comes to a close -- is a key consolation prize," said ABC News' political director David Chalian.

"If a candidate can't bring in eye-popping totals, the hope is to at least best expectations and escape scrutiny for a less than robust bank account," he said.

Edwards Pushes 'Small Change'

Meanwhile, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, third in the money race among Democrats, is publicly focusing on small donors in a more populist appeal for cash.

"All of us together giving small change can make big change," reads an e-mail sent to supporters Thursday by the Edwards campaign, urging people to contribute "what they can afford."

This week Edwards appeared at a $15-per-head fundraiser at a club in Washington, D.C., and explained the strategy isn't about cash, but about potential votes.

"They're important because it builds ground up support which you need in a presidential race," he told ABC News.

Investing in 2008

Clinton and Obama have also held creative, low-dollar fundraisers.

Clinton held a low-dollar $20-per ticket fundraiser this month in Washington, D.C., featuring "American Idol" runner-up Katherine McPhee, geared toward attracting women.

"That was an incredibly good model of how to expand the base of people that are invested, literally, in your campaign," said Democratic strategist Robert Weiner.

This week the Clinton campaign targeted small donors over e-mail.

"You can't win the White House with experience and wisdom alone," reads a Clinton campaign e-mail sent to supporters Thursday. "With the crucial FEC end-of-quarter deadline coming next week, joining our campaign right now with a contribution of $100, $75 or $50 will make the biggest impact on the campaign."

Obama has two low-dollar fundraising kickoff events next week in San Antonio Sunday and in Minneapolis on Friday.

Small Donations Equal Mass Appeal

Political strategists argue small dollar fundraisers have become a way to gauge a candidate's mass appeal.

"Numbers of people have become as important as size of dollar contributions," said Weiner.

This week the Obama campaign released the results of an online "dinner party" contest that asked people to make donations as small as $5 for a chance to have dinner with Obama.

"I am looking forward to sitting down with this group of four people who are representative of the millions of voices that have been drowned out by the special interests in Washington," said Obama in a press release this week.

The candidates are primarily targeting small donors through the Internet, a political strategy popularized in the 2004 race by Howard Dean.

"Before the Internet, unless you had a really good direct mail database, it didn't make sense to focus on small donor fundraising because it cost about almost as much as it brought in," said Carol Darr, director of the Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet.

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