Hillary Clinton’s donors switch allegiance to Barack Obama

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A leading fundraiser for Hillary Clinton says her supporters will back Barack Obama with donations once he finally wins the Democratic presidential nomination, and says Mr Obama could raise as much as $500m to spend on the election campaign.

By Matthew Garrahan in Los Angeles

Mr Obama has raised about $240m to date, thanks in part to an internet campaign that has attracted individual donations from more than 1.5m people.

But Noah Mamet, a Democratic party consultant and fundraiser who has organised high-profile events in Los Angeles for Mrs Clinton, told the Financial Times that Mr Obama’s finances would be boosted by Mrs Clinton’s backers, when he wins the nomination.

“Almost all [Clinton’s] donors will support Obama,” he said, adding that Mr Obama’s online campaign had yet to realise its full potential. “Eighty per cent of people who have given money to the Obama campaign [via the internet] haven’t come close to giving him the maximum amount.”

He forecast a bumper week for Mr Obama during the Democratic convention. “Hillary raised $10m in 48 hours the night of the Ohio and Texas primaries, and they weren’t televised live on national TV networks . . . they were on cable,” said Mr Mamet. “When you have the entire media world watching the convention when he gives his speech . . . he could raise $50m.”

Mr Obama and Mrs Clinton have spent considerable time in southern California, raising funds from wealthy donors in the entertainment industry. But, according to one prominent Los Angeles-based fundraiser for Mr Obama, who declined to be named, entertainment industry figures who had previously given money to Mrs Clinton were switching to Mr Obama’s campaign “like rats from a sinking ship”.

In spite of the successful web campaign, Mr Obama is continuing to raise money from one-off events in Hollywood. His wife, Michelle, was in Los Angeles last week, where she attended three fundraisers in one day, culminating in a cocktail reception at the Bel-Air home of Dawn Ostroff, president of entertainment at The CW television network.

Laurie David, producer of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, and Kelly Meyer, wife of Universal Studios’ chairman Ron Meyer, were among the guests paying $1,000 a ticket.

John McCain also visited Los Angeles last week for a fundraiser, attracting stars including Kelsey Grammer and Jon Voight. His visit came as he ponders whether to campaign in California, a Democratic stronghold.

The Republican nominee has the backing of Arnold Schwarzenegger, the state’s popular governor, and support from Silicon Valley figures such as Meg Whitman, the former chief executive of Ebay, who is working for the McCain campaign.

Mark Baldassare, president of the Public Policy Institute of California, said it was more likely that Mr McCain would visit the state to raise funds than to campaign. “The reality is that California is a blue state and has trended that way since 1992,” he said.

Dan Schnur, a political consultant who ran communications for Mr McCain’s 2000 campaign, said the Republican candidate faced an “uphill struggle” in California. “But he probably has the best chance of carrying the state for the Republicans for many, many years.

“The issues that have caused him so much difficulty among conservative Republicans ironically put him squarely in the mainstream of California public opinion – issues like global warming, campaign finance reform and, most importantly, illegal immigration.”

Christopher Lehane, a political consultant and communications director for Al Gore’s presidential campaign in 2000, said Mr McCain would struggle to finance a competitive campaign in California. “To even wage a campaign in California would cost $50-plus million that McCain simply does not have to spend.”

California, he said, had historically been “the ATM for candidates” but Mr Obama had raised “more in a week than McCain raises in a month”.

But Mr Schnur, who worked for George H. W. Bush’s successful 1988 campaign – the last time a Republican took California – said Mr McCain’s team is giving careful consideration to a tilt at the state.

Victory in California would almost certainly win the White House for the Republicans, he said. “I remember Lee Atwater [Mr Bush’s campaign manager] telling me: “We can win without California but they can’t . . . so I want it.”

The Financial Times

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