Barack Obama’s record-breaking online fund-raising continued in March, netting $40m (£20m, €25m) from almost half a million donors in spite of his defeats to Hillary Clinton in Texas and Ohio at the start of the month.
By Edward Luce in Washington
Mrs Clinton’s campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, which is estimated to have raised only half of Mr Obama’s total in March, on Thursday said that her opponent had been outspending her by four-to-one in Pennsylvania, which holds the next primary election on April 22.
The Clinton campaign, which is projected to win Pennsylvania although some polls show her lead narrowing, estimated that Mr Obama would continue to outspend her by two-to-one in TV advertising in the less than three weeks remaining.
Mr Obama, who describes himself as the “underdog” in Pennsylvania, is also closing the gap on Mrs Clinton’s lead among the unelected “superdelegates” who will ultimately choose the nominee after the primary calendar ends on June 3.
On Thursday Jon Corzine, the governor of New Jersey and prominent backer of Mrs Clinton, said that as a superdelegate he would probably vote for whichever nominee finished ahead among pledged delegates and in the popular vote – both metrics where Mr Obama’s lead looks hard to overturn.
The Clinton campaign has argued that the 796 superdelegates ought to follow their own consciences rather than ratify the popular vote and choose whichever candidate they believe has the strongest chance of beating John McCain, the Republican candidate, in the November election.
But a growing number of such officials, most of whom face re-election in November, have indicated that they would go with the winner of the popular vote. They have been dubbed the ‘Pelosi Club’ after Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives, who shares that view of their role.
Mr Obama has also sharply narrowed Mrs Clinton’s lead among superdelegates who have made public endorsements, adding almost 70 in the last few weeks compared to Mrs Clinton’s nine. The most recent include Bob Casey, a Democratic senator for Pennsylvania, and Amy Klobuchar, a senator for Minnesota, which holds its nominating contest next month.
More than 300 superdelegates have yet to endorse either candidate. “It is hard to believe the undecideds are not in the ‘Pelosi Club’ which means that it is going to be really tough for Mrs Clinton to get the nomination,” said a senior Democratic official. “The only measure that will really count in the end is the popular vote.”
Some analysts still believe it is possible for Mrs Clinton to overturn Mr Obama’s 700,000 lead in the popular vote if she wins by emphatic margins in Pennsylvania and other states that are leaning her way – including Indiana, Kentucky and Puerto Rico.
However, the Clinton camp is still awaiting a game-changing event or revelation about Mr Obama that would disrupt the settled demographic split between Democrats in favour of each candidate – with blue-collar workers and Hispanics tending towards the former first lady and African Americans and educated white voters endorsing Mr Obama.
Last month’s controversy over Mr Obama’s ties to Jeremiah Wright, his former pastor at the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, have left little residue in the polls. Mr Obama’s national lead over Mrs Clinton has remained stable at an average of roughly three per centage points.