Friday, August 10, 2007

"Obama mounts big lead in fundraising in state..."

Seattle Times:
If money equals popularity, Washington state could be considered Barack Obama country.

The first-term senator from Illinois has a commanding lead in statewide fundraising, raking in about $786,000 for his presidential bid, more than twice as much as New York's Sen. Hillary Clinton, the presumed national front-runner.
Nationally, Clinton leads Obama $63 million to $58 million.

So far, Democratic presidential candidates have raised twice as much from Washington residents as Republican candidates, about $1.7 million compared with $847,919.

Just as he leads his GOP rivals nationally, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has brought in the most locally, $493,360.

Among Democrats, other indications of local voter mood besides dollars paint a murkier picture.

In a July straw poll posted in Canal Street Coffee in Fremont, Obama trounced Clinton 28 votes to 8. But when local Democrats set up booths last month at community events in Kent and Tukwila and asked folks to select their favorite contender, Clinton bested her rivals. The results track national polls suggesting Clinton is more popular in less-affluent areas.

"The demographics are different from the city and 'burbs," said Bryan Kesterson, chairman of the 47th Legislative District Democrats in south-central King County.

And then there's the preference of Seattle Congressman Jim McDermott. He's pulling for someone currently not in the race, former Vice President Al Gore, with Obama on the ticket.

McDermott said Seattle's tepid response to Clinton so far is caused by lingering frustration over Iraq.

"My district is very anti-this-war, and she voted for it and in some people's eyes still hasn't pulled away from it," said McDermott. "That's the issue she'll have to deal with in Seattle."

Paul Berendt, former chairman of the state Democratic Party, said Washington tends to back outsiders such as Howard Dean, who had early support for his unsuccessful bid in 2004. This year, Obama and former Sen. John Edwards fit that profile closer than Clinton.

"Our state has a history of backing insurgent candidates that are not the D.C. insiders," he said.

Most of the contributions come from donors living in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood, Mercer Island and Bellevue, according to elections data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Obama raised the most from each area.

Several of Obama's financial supporters have also cut checks to Edwards, who has pulled in about $419,000 from the state, including support from Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz.

Some of the state's biggest Democratic contributors have donated to Obama, including software magnate Bill Gates.

The other Microsoft co-founder, Paul Allen, gave to Clinton.

Republican Romney's donors include Carl Behnke, chairman of Sur La Table.

The state's campaign cash has helped fund operations in the key primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, but so far, the candidates have spent little time here.

Obama, Edwards and their spouses have visited Washington in the past year. Former President Clinton held a private fundraiser for his wife earlier this summer, but she has not campaigned here.

Clinton's absence explains her weak fundraising performance, said Pam Eakes, a Clinton contributor who served on the Dean campaign.

Without local campaign offices, most of the action has been online.

"Washington State for Obama 2008" is an all-volunteer, independent effort that hosts a Web site with a blog and an events schedule touting bowling parties and other fundraisers.

The "Washington for Richardson" blog likewise is not associated with the campaign of Democrat Bill Richardson, the New Mexico governor, but offers favorable perspectives on the candidate.

"Seattle for Hillary" is the only local group listed on the Clinton campaign Web site, but its leader said members have not been active.

At this stage in previous presidential campaigns, the candidates had not yet opened Seattle headquarters, Berendt said. That will likely happen closer to the state's primary, scheduled for Feb. 19, weeks after Super Tuesday allots thousands of convention delegates in elections across the country.

"Don't expect to see big campaign operations until after the first of the year," Berendt said.

"Until then, it will be grass-roots campaigning at its finest."

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