Monday, July 17, 2006

Courting the Little Guys (and Gals)

Howard Dean's campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004, though ultimately unsuccessful, shattered the myth that candidates had to rely on a relatively short list of high-dollar donors in order to raise enough money to run a serious campaign. The governor of a small northern state, Dean wasn't seen as a viable candidate by the political establishment in 2002 and early 2003 and was essentially shutout of the Democratic Party's fundraising apparatus (ironic that he is now chair of the party).

This forced his campaign to look outside of the political fundraising mainstream to, of all things, the people of the party. Dean broke nearly every Democratic Party fundraising record by relying on the average folks who were usually ignored by candidates in their rush to collect $2000 checks. His campaign counted over 600,000 donors in the end, with an average contribution of less than $100.

Now comes news from campaign finance reports that the presumed front-runner for the Democratic nomination in '08 is also courting the little guys (and gals). Senator Hillary Clinton (whom I assume would have no trouble getting access to the big money donors) has instead taken at least one page from the Dean playbook. The Fix reports she's raised an astonishing $45 million for her Senate campaign since 2001, but the real eye-opener is that in the last reporting period (April 1 through June 30), she raised $5.7 million with 91% coming in contributions of less than $100!

The other contenders for the Democratic nomination, and the Republicans for that matter, would do well to take note. Don't ignore the voters!

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