In an election season that has been rotten with surprises so far, it was the biggest “Wait…what?” moment we’ve seen so far when Hillary admitted Wednesday that several staffers had gone unpaid recently and she had to loan her campaign $5 million from her own personal fortune to keep the phones and the lights turned on.
The initial suspicion was that someone from Mitt’s wheezing campaign had gotten ahold of Senator Clinton’s ATM PIN and sucked her account dry so he could scrape together enough ad buys to storm Rhode Island and Vermont and count another 43 delegates towards the 1191 he needed to crush John McCain.
But it was true, apparently: The Hillary Express was running on fumes. Everyone in the Democratic Party wanted a piece of Barack, and he was where they were voting with their dollars. That was already front-page news with the pre-Super Tuesday announcement that he’d raised a mind-boggling $32 million in the month of January. (If Rudy Giuliani had raised that much, he could have won a second delegate and maybe even have lived to see the Maine Caucuses.)
This was a woman who had the Michael Jordan of fund-raising among her brain trust, former DNC Chairman and hands-down the most powerful man in the Democratic Party, Terry McAuliffe. How in the Sam Hill could she be broke? This was the woman who started this race with a campaign that was practically printing money, and who seemed to have some deal with God to get a $5 bill every time the rest of her opponents combined raised a single dollar. What happened? Did she pay for a subliminal Super Bowl ad buy? Was there some quid pro quo with voters that I hadn’t heard about–like send in a cell phone picture of a punched Hillary ballot to firstname.lastname@example.org and get a $50 Bed, Bath, and Beyond gift card? Did Bill get caught in South Carolina drilling the wife of the state Democratic Party Chair on top of a conference table in a Charleston Red Roof Inn meeting room and they had to dip into the coffers to keep everyone involved quiet?
I was stuck in traffic Wednesday evening sitting behind an ’73 VW SuperBeetle with an “Obama ’08″ bumper sticker, listening to the radio commercials and waiting to hear the newly-destitute Hillary’s piercing nasal voice shilling for Jenny Craig or PajamaGram.com, when Randy Rhoads on Air America came back from break and provided the “Ahhhh, no fucking wonder!!!” moment that had thus far eluded my tiny and often very myopic brain: Hillary’s donors are quite literally spent. They are limited to $2,300 in donations in the primary campaign and then they can’t give another dime. Being the establishment candidate that she is, her dollars are coming from the big-ticket Dems who are paying for an after-dinner photo with the former First Lady or a possible U.S. Ambassadorship to Malta under a second President Clinton Administration. For all the hokum about Hillary being the candidate of the voiceless and downtrodden, the Daddy Warbucks of the Democratic Party are shoveling their cash her way. That’s why she hired Terry McAuliffe.
Barack, on the other hand–the alleged candidate of the rich, educated, and well-heeled–is in fact turning out to be an American Piggy Bank. He’s taking in $10, $20, and $100 contributions from three to four times as many donors as Hillary who will never reach the $2,300 maximum. In other words they can give, give, and give, until it never hurts. Barack is currently nailing down $3 to ever $1 that goes to Hillary, and in less than 48 hours after Super Tuesday, he raised an unbelievable $7.2 million online. Suck on that, Ron Paul.
This is a race that may eventually be stolen by Terry McAuliffe’s friends among the Super Delegates, but Americans are voting with their nickels and dimes, and Barack Obama is winning the pocket change bloc hands down.