Does Clinton Have the Money to Compete?

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Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is back on the road Thursday, in search of votes and money. As Barack Obama has steadily increased his popular vote tally and delegate count, money has become a political and practical measure of the campaign.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Sometimes in presidential politics you can tell a lot from what a campaign doesn't say. Two weeks ago, after Hillary Clinton won a solid victory in Pennsylvania, she and her campaign spoke repeatedly about money.

Here's the candidate one day after the primary.

Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York): You know, since my victory we've had thousands of people flocking to my Web site, hillaryclinton.com. We've raised $3 million. There is so much energy behind my campaign, and a great deal of commitment.

BLOCK: Well, yesterday, after Clinton's loss in North Carolina and her win by a small margin in Indiana, I asked the campaign's communications director how much money had been raised in the 24 hours since the primaries.

Unidentified Man: I don't know exactly where we are now. I'm going to check in with our Internet team and see how much we've raised.

BLOCK: We did hear yesterday that Clinton had loaned the campaign $6.4 million of her own money. That's the second time she's reached into her own accounts to boost her campaign's dwindling finances.

NORRIS: NPR's David Greene is on the Clinton campaign bus in Charleston, West Virginia, and he joins us now.

Hello, David.

DAVID GREENE: Hi, Michele.

NORRIS: So what's the campaign's saying today about fundraising after we all learned about the loan that Clinton gave to her campaign?

GREENE: Well, that they're still not saying that much, and we're just getting nothing from the campaign today. They're saying they're not releasing the numbers. They're not necessarily saying they're doing poorly with online fundraising, but the fact that they're not crowing about it does suggest that it's not as well as they might like.

NORRIS: So how much money do they actually need at this point to remain competitive in these upcoming contests?

GREENE: Well, it's hard to say. You know, there's certainly a baseline that you need to run a campaign like this. I mean, Michele, we're just, you know, we're rushing across the country today on a big charter jet, making stops in West Virginia and South Dakota and Oregon, and then coming back across the country tomorrow. And with all the security and all the personnel that she brings along, I mean, that's - it's a ton of money. So you have to have the baseline, and her campaign says that they have enough to compete and that if she needs to loan herself even more money, that Hillary Clinton is ready to do that. I think it might be more - the risk might be an image problem for her.

You know, the superdelegates are so important right now. They want the candidate who can win in November. If they're seeing Barack Obama just on a fundraising fair if in prolific this whole campaign, the question is whether they like what they see there, compared to a candidate like Hillary Clinton, who has brought in a lot of money, but not nearly enough. So this has been an important moment for her to make the case to superdelegates, having some money woes, not exactly what you'd be looking for.

NORRIS: David, on another matter, Senator Clinton granted an interview to USA Today, and there's actually audio from that interview. Let's take a quick listen.

Senator HILLARY CLINTON, (Democrat, New York; Democratic Presidential Candidate): There was just an AP article posted that found how Senator Obama's support among working - hardworking Americans, white Americans is weakening again, and whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me. And in independents, I was running even with him. And I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on.

NORRIS: Now David, is she in some way telegraphing the kind of voters that she's going to be trying to target in these upcoming contests?

GREENE: I think, absolutely. And we should say what the exit polls suggested that Barack Obama has actually been slightly better among white voters overall. But Hillary Clinton is making the distinction in saying, you know, hardworking class white voters, the argument that they're making the superdelegate goes like this, Michele, that African-American voters - who Hillary Clinton is not performing well with right now - in a general election would come back to Hillary Clinton as a nominee. They're making the argument that working class white voters, Reagan Democrats, the kinds of voters who they say Obama is struggling with, might not come to his side if he's a nominee. And that's the point that they are hoping to make if they can win West Virginia.

NORRIS: Interesting language there - hardworking Americans, white Americans. It seems like she's walking to a bit of a mine field there.

GREENE: It really does, to start making those sorts of distinctions. And, you know, the number of delegates, pledged delegates not on their side, so they have to find a very clear and focused case to make to the party and see these superdelegates and saying that she is the candidate of hardworking America and hardworking voters is what they seem opting for at this point.

NORRIS: David, thanks so much.

GREENE: Thank you, Michele.

NORRIS: That was NPR's David Greene, traveling with the Clinton campaign in Charleston, West Virginia.

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