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Short of cash, Clinton is forced to cut spending

The once-formidable fund-raising machine of Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton has begun to sputter at the worst possible moment for her presidential campaign, Clinton advisers and donors said Thursday.
/ Source: The New York Times

The once-formidable fund-raising machine of Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton has begun to sputter at the worst possible moment for Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign, Clinton advisers and donors said Thursday, with spending curtailed on political events and advertising as Mrs. Clinton seeks to compete in the last six nominating contests.

Mrs. Clinton’s diminished political momentum, following Tuesday’s loss in the North Carolina primary and her narrow victory in Indiana, appears to have had a dampening effect on her fund-raising, aides said, increasing the likelihood that Mrs. Clinton will lend her campaign more of her own money beyond the $11 million she has already provided.

Clinton advisers said Mrs. Clinton was committed to spending more of her own cash on the campaign if necessary, although they spoke optimistically about a rise in fund-raising if she prevails in Tuesday’s primary in West Virginia.

The campaign is clearly running low on cash, although advisers would not say how much money — or how little — Mrs. Clinton currently has. The campaign had started April with over $10 million in unpaid debts, and Mrs. Clinton was vastly outspent by Senator Barack Obama in North Carolina and Indiana.

Internet donations
Some advisers to Mrs. Clinton said that the debt had grown significantly, especially because of the high cost of competing and advertising in the Pennsylvania primary last month, but they could not give a precise figure.

Mrs. Clinton had been increasingly relying on Internet donations this spring from new and small-amount contributors; the day after she won the April 22 Pennsylvania primary, the campaign brought in a record $10 million online. But Hassan Nemazee, one of Mrs. Clinton’s national finance chairmen, put the amount she collected online in the 24 hours after the Indiana and North Carolina primaries at only “$1 million-plus.”

Phil Singer, a spokesman for the campaign, declined to confirm Mr. Nemazee’s figures, saying only that the campaign had raised in the “seven figures” online, as well as at a Washington fund-raiser on Wednesday night.

Money-saving opportunities
Clinton advisers said they were looking for opportunities to save money on campaign events in the coming primary states of West Virginia, Kentucky and Oregon. The advisers said events would be more frill-free, but they also said that the campaign was likely to go deeper into debt to vendors who design and produce her events.

On the bright side for Mrs. Clinton, West Virginia and Kentucky are not expensive media markets for advertising, but Mr. Obama has already begun broadcasting advertisements in those states.

After news broke that Mrs. Clinton had lent her campaign $5 million following the crush of states that voted on Feb. 5, the campaign brought in more than $4 million in 24 hours; and after Mrs. Clinton’s popular-vote victories in Ohio and Texas on March 4, the campaign collected more than $3 million. The Obama campaign often averaged more than $1 million a day online earlier in the year.

Nevertheless, Mr. Nemazee said that $1 million at this point in the race was an impressive total for Mrs. Clinton to have raised. “We raised a million dollars in a 24-hour period for a candidate that every pundit is saying is either toast or dead on arrival,” he said. “People at the grass roots are still willing to spend $5, $25, $50, whatever it is, to be supportive.”

Mr. Nemazee also said that the fund-raiser in Washington on Wednesday, which had been expected to bring in $500,000, had actually raised more than $1 million. He added that a Mother’s Day-theme event on Saturday in New York with Mrs. Clinton and her daughter, Chelsea, was on track to bring in more than $200,000.

“That is not indicative to me of a lack of support,” Mr. Nemazee said. “We’re in the 16th month of the campaign for a candidate that everyone says has no path to victory.”

Donor enthusiasm falls
Still, other top fund-raisers working for Mrs. Clinton said that enthusiasm among donors had fallen sharply and that they had little confidence there would be a financial turnaround. They said that some donors had questioned why they should give more money when another set of numbers — the calculus to win enough delegates for the nomination — seemed so against Mrs. Clinton at this point.

At the end of March, the most recent period for which figures are available, Mrs. Clinton had $9 million available for her primary bid, compared with $43 million raised in primary money for Mr. Obama. Mr. Obama also had less than $1 million in debt.

The Clinton campaign said it had been vastly outspent by the Obama campaign in Indiana and North Carolina, and statistics compiled by Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks political advertising expenditures, backs that up.

Mr. Obama spent $9 million on television advertisements in North Carolina and Indiana, including a last minute $170,000 purchase in the expensive Chicago market, which extends into northern Indiana. By contrast, Mrs. Clinton spent about $4.7 million in those states, according to CMAG.

'Winning by losing' strategy
Even more, said Evan Tracey, spokesman for CMAG, the fact that Mr. Obama was able to pump $10 million into media purchases in Pennsylvania in April, even though he did not win that state, forced Mrs. Clinton to spend $5 million, cash she could have used in Indiana and North Carolina.

“Barack Obama had a strategy of almost winning by losing,” Mr. Tracey said in an interview. “It was a wise use of his resources. He spent a lot of money there, even though he wasn’t going to win. But it forced her to spend.”

Mr. Nemazee declined to discuss Mrs. Clinton’s cash situation, other than to say that he assumed she was running low. But he said that the campaign had opened offices in states where contests are still to be held, including West Virginia, Kentucky and Oregon. He added that Mrs. Clinton had also indicated a willingness to lend her campaign more money to keep it going.

“In terms of having the resources to be competitive and be able to wage a credible campaign, I have no doubt she is in a position to do so,” he said. “Now, can circumstances change? Of course they can.”

Alan Patricof, a national finance chairman for the Clinton campaign, said his sense was that the campaign was plunging ahead. He said a conference call had been scheduled for Thursday afternoon for top fund-raisers with former President Bill Clinton. A small group of fund-raisers is also scheduled to meet with Mrs. Clinton in Washington next week.

Leslie Wayne contributed reporting.

This article, originally appeared at The New York Times.