Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton reported unprecedented spoils from Tuesday's convincing Pennsylvania victory: $10-million in campaign contributions.
"People woke up this morning and got out their credit cards," said Ira Leesfield, co-chair of Clinton's finance committee in Florida. "Apparently, there was a pent-up surplus of people waiting to see how she was going to do, and with the breakthrough in Pennsylvania, the dam broke."
Energized Florida fundraisers hopped on the Internet to mine buddy lists for new donors. And if you donated so much as a dollar to Clinton's campaign in the past, chances are you got a call or an email asking you to give more.
The efforts mark a pivotal switch in the Clinton campaign's fundraising strategy. Previously top heavy with large donors, the campaign now seeks new, smaller donors — the kind that have propelled Sen. Barack Obama to a comfortable fundraising lead.
"The irony is that there has been a role reversal," said Leesfield, a Miami lawyer. As Clinton now appeals to smaller online contributors, Obama fundraisers are courting more big contributors.
"Campaigns do that all the time," Leesfield said. "They pick up the best of what the other guys are doing."
Obama clearly got the jump on online fundraising.
"That's to his credit," Leesfield said. "It's a great medium. But it's not patented. Anyone can do it."
The donation surge Tuesday and Wednesday provides a much-needed cash infusion for the Clinton campaign, which on Sunday had revealed that at the end of March it had just more than $9-million in the bank and $10-million in debt. Obama, meanwhile, had more than $40-million in cash on hand at the start of April and outspent Clinton 2-to-1 on television ads in Pennsylvania.
At the victory celebration in Philadelphia, Clinton took a page out of Obama's playbook and plugged her Web site, Hillary
Clinton.com. Those who went to the page were greeted by a blaring message: "Keep the momentum going! Contribute $5 below."
That has been Obama's strategy: court a large pool of small donors and tap them repeatedly until they reach the primary maximum donation of $2,300.
Campaign finance reports released March 20 show that slightly more than half of Clinton's donations came from donors who had contributed the maximum. By comparison, only about a third of Obama's money came from contributors who gave the $2,300 limit. People who gave less than $200 account for 40 percent of Obama's war chest; compared to 23 percent for Clinton.
Obama, who trails Clinton in Florida fundraising, actually has more donors, 8,831 to 8,450, but only about 1,000 are maxed out, compared to 1,800 for Clinton, according to a Miami Herald story. (These figures don't include donors who have given less than $200, because they are not required to be listed on Federal Elections Commission reports.)
"Let's face it, we've done an unprecedented amount of large contributions in Florida," said Miami businessman Chris Korge, co-chairman of Clinton's national fundraising committee.
Florida is one of the few states where Clinton has outraised Obama, Korge said.
"I can't think of anyone who hasn't maxed out," Korge said. "We've pretty much gone through our list, and many others."
On Wednesday, the Florida finance committee for Clinton began putting out calls to all of the Florida donors who have not reached the contribution limit. But perhaps more importantly, the committee has challenged Clinton's most stalwart supporters in the state to reach out to friends and acquaintances on their e-mail lists.
According to the Clinton campaign, the 24-hour blitz of contributions through noon Wednesday included donations from 60,000 donors, about 50,000 of them new. Almost all of it is coming online.
The $10-million-in-a-day is an impressive number, especially considering that Clinton took in slightly more than $20-million in all of March.
"People are saying, 'Wait a minute, she can win this thing,' " Korge said.
There are no numbers available to quantify how much of this surge is coming from Florida, but Korge and others believe Floridians upset about the disqualification of the Jan. 29 primary results are throwing money at Clinton, who has been aggressive in calling for a revote.
"I definitely think it's helping with fundraising in Florida," Korge said. "People are really getting very angry about it. They thought this would all be resolved by now."
Clinton acknowledged Tuesday night that she can't keep winning unless donors keep her within shouting distance of Obama's formidable fundraising.
Even if it's $5 at a time.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report. Robert Farley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8603.