Monday, April 16, 2007

Obama vs. Hillary in the Money Primary

I’ve always found John Heilemann’s articles to be sharp and interesting, somewhat like the old David Brooks. He files his reports for New York magazine on national politics, and has a knack for showing rather than telling. Here’s an except from his latest story, on the money chase between Obama and Hillary:

"The most gratifying thing about our fund-raising success isn’t the bottom line,” [Obama’s chief campaign strategist, David] Axelrod says, “but the number of people who have contributed and the number who are small contributors. The people we’re targeting are new to this; they’re not constrained by old loyalties. There’s a lot of energy in that world, and it gives us enormous potential to grow.” When I ask if he’s implying a contrast to Clintonworld, Axelrod offers up a pointed aperçu: “There’s a difference between grabbing low-hanging fruit and planting trees.”

Obama’s finance people know that historically the second and third quarters have seen a falloff in contributions. But whatever happens next on the money front, the political implications of Obama’s first quarter are already set in stone. The central question about Obama is whether, for all his charisma and star power, he may simply be a flash in the pan. And that question remains largely unanswered. He has yet to demonstrate anything approaching depth on any area of policy. He has yet to articulate a compelling vision of America’s place in the world at a time of clear and present peril. For many people, even those inclined to favor him, he remains something of a cipher. And he has yet to be tested under fire or to prove that he has the fortitude required to withstand the rigors of a presidential campaign—which Clinton has been and does in spades. But Obama’s performance in the money primary does demonstrate that he can build an organization, in a breathtakingly short time, that can go toe-to-toe with hers. And that is no small thing. “As someone new to the presidential process, there was a question of, ‘Can he hack it?’” says Axelrod. “That question has been answered.”

Update: The NYT plays copycat: "Donors Linked to the Clintons Shift to Obama."