The New Frontrunner?

Big news from the Obama campaign on this lazy Sunday afternoon. Barack's second-quarter fundraising number is in, and it's a doozy: $32.5 million. This breaks all kinds of records and is a good $5 million more than Hillary Clinton raised during the same three-month time period. As evidenced by the memo posted below, Obama's campaign is now sounding plenty confident. While tacitly acknowledging that "one of our fellow candidates" is still leading in national polls, it declares: "Time is a friend to our campaign." The tone couldn't be more different from last week's release from the Clinton folks, which mentioned their fundraising number almost as an afterthought.

While the memo takes pains to portray Clinton as a "quasi-incumbent," it's not clear how much longer Obama is going to be able to play the role of David to her Goliath. Ben Smith, in his first take on the news, says Obama's trying to have it both ways. Needless to say, we will have much more to say about this story tomorrow.

Here's the full text of the memo:

 

Less than six months ago, we began this campaign with a mission.

Barack and all of us were determined to defeat the politics of cynicism and division that is so pervasive in Washington today and replace it with a politics of unity, hope and common purpose.

The pundits and political insiders questioned whether a new leader and fledgling campaign could compete with the big money and massive organization of other candidates who have been preparing to run for years, and even decades.

Well, for the second consecutive quarter, you’ve helped send a resounding answer.

I’m thrilled to report that in the last three months, the Obama campaign has set a new record for fundraising.  Thanks to you, we raised at least $32.5 million including at least $31 million that we can spend on the battle for the Democratic nomination.

But as astonishing as that feat is, much more important is how we raised it.


To date, more than 258,000 Americans have contributed to this effort, much of it coming in small donations.  This, too, shatters all records and sends an unmistakable message to the political establishment that the same old politics just won’t do in 2008.

The American people are demanding real change, a politics of principle and not just expediency.  They want to turn the page, and they’re turning out and supporting this effort in unprecedented numbers.  It has become more than a campaign.  It is a movement.

Our financial success will provide the campaign important momentum. But there is practical application as well, which gives us a decided advantage in the nomination fight.

First, we are on a financial course that will allow us to both fully fund efforts in the early primary and caucus states, and also participate vigorously in all the February 5 contests, including large states like California, New Jersey, New York, Georgia and Missouri.

Frankly, when we entered this race, we did not think that was possible. We estimated at this point of the campaign we’d be at least $20-25 million behind one of our fellow candidates. But due to the amazing outpouring of support from people all across the country, remarkably, we should be on at least even financial footing for the duration of the campaign.

Secondly, because so many states are holding early contests that may have significant impact on deciding the ultimate Democratic nominee, a winning campaign will need deep organizations in dozens of states to prevail. Our more than 258,000 donors provide us the foundation of an unprecedented volunteer army in all 50 states. We also have thousands more who are not able to contribute but are already volunteering or who plan too. For example, early in June, more than 10,000 Americans took part in our “Walk for Change” — canvassing neighborhoods in all 50 states, visiting more than 350,000 households.

We will have the largest and most committed grassroots organization in the race, allowing us to build our support, chase absentee ballots, conduct early vote programs and turn out Obama supporters in any state we need to.

This is a tremendous asset and is one more manifestation of the “enthusiasm gap” we have over our rivals.

Six months into the race, we simply could not be in a better position. We have built a powerful, well funded grassroots movement and strong organizations in each of the critical early states. Barack’s call to change our politics and put government back on the side of the American people and our best ideals is resonating more strongly every day.

If you don’t believe it, take a look at how so many of our opponents have in recent months embraced Barack’s critique, positions — and even his language.

Some of our opponents have tried to deflect attention from the obvious power and momentum of the movement we’re building by pointing to national polls, that are all but meaningless.  Indeed, at this juncture four years ago, Joe Lieberman had a solid lead in national polls.  In the fall of 2003, the leaders were Howard Dean and Wesley Clark.  You’ll recall, none of these men were the nominee.

We’re pleased to be running as strongly as we are in the national polls, but they are beside the point in a process that will be shaped by a series of early contests that will begin in Iowa.

One of our opponents is also the quasi-incumbent in the race, who in our belief will and should lead just about every national poll from now until the Iowa caucuses. Expect nothing different and attach no significance to it. It is clear you did not in this past quarter and we would encourage everyone to keep our sights focused on doing well in the early primaries and caucuses, and then using our organizational advantage nationally to clinch the nomination in February.

Just as a refresher, below are some Democratic primary national polls going back to 1980.  You’ll see how effective they have been as crystal balls.

 

  • 2003: In August 2003, Joe Lieberman led the national polls, in September, Howard Dean led, in October, Wesley Clark led, and in December – one month before the Iowa Caucuses – a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll showed John Kerry, the eventual nominee, in fifth place trailing among others Joe Lieberman and Dick Gephardt. Yet after winning Iowa and New Hampshire, Kerry vaulted to 49% in national polls before the end of January, This has been true in nearly every previous Democratic nomination contest:

 

  • 1992:   According to a November 1991 Los Angeles Times poll, Bill Clinton was in 3rd place with less than half the support of the then-frontrunner, Jerry Brown.

 

  • 1988:   A January 1988 New York Times/CBS Poll showed Michael Dukakis in fourth place with 6 percent.

 

  • 1980:   An August 1979 poll showed President Carter trailing Senator Ted Kennedy by 36 points

Time is a friend to our campaign.

While voters have a distinctly positive feeling about Barack, they don’t have a great depth of knowledge about his life and history of leadership in Illinois and Washington.  That history, which we have begun sharing in the early states, distinguishes Barack as someone who not only speaks about change, but who has spent a lifetime working to bring it about.

As we educate voters about Barack, we have strong reason to believe that our already impressive support in the early states will solidify and slowly build later in the year.

It is clear we have the most room to grow in the race, given that the majority of voters do not know much about Barack beyond what they have gleaned from news reports over the last few months.

We also remain the candidate most clearly synched up with the electorate, an electorate clamoring for change and ready for our relationships around the world to be repaired. The election is after all about the voters, and we are very confident that Barack Obama is the type of leader Democrats are looking for in the standard bearer.

If we prevail in the nomination fight, there is mounting evidence that Barack Obama would be the strongest general election candidate. Barack is consistently the strongest Democrat with independents in general election polling, who are the voters that are the pathway to the presidency. Barack also has a 2-1 fav/unfav with general election voters, which is also the best score in the Democratic field. That strength with independents, plus what would likely be very strong Democratic turnout across the country as a result of an Obama candidacy, also likely puts more states in play. We cannot afford another election where we have to run the table to win the Electoral College.

So, the point is this. We are off to a great start because of your help. We are going to keep our head down and focus on continuing to build a powerful grassroots movement, focus on the early states but plan for the states to come in early February and continue to both introduce Barack Obama and the kind of President he would be to the American people.

In a little over six months, the contest begins in earnest. We are ahead of schedule in every phase of the campaign. Let’s keep it going and elect a leader who will transform our country.

Thank you again for all you have done in the last five months.