Clinton Seeks to Cast Herself as Underdog Although Sen. Hillary Clinton collected slightly more delegates than Sen. Barack Obama in the Democrats' Super Tuesday contests, her presidential campaign spent the rest of the week repositioning her as an underdog. It all has to do with who her contributors are.
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Clinton Seeks to Cast Herself as Underdog

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Clinton Seeks to Cast Herself as Underdog

Clinton Seeks to Cast Herself as Underdog

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

Hillary Clinton won the largest states and collected slightly more delegates than Barack Obama on Super Tuesday, but her campaign has spent the rest of the week repositioning Clinton as a kind of underdog.

It all has to do with her campaign money and who's contributing to her. NPR's Peter Overby reports.

PETER OVERBY: It's down to one word and not a nice one either, establishment.

This week, Hillary Clinton and her advisers decided that Barack Obama is the establishment candidate. Here's her chief strategist Mark Penn explaining Super Tuesday results on Wednesday.

Mr. MARK PENN (Chief Strategist, Hillary Clinton Presidential Campaign): I think we went through 10 days of wall-to-wall coverage of Senator Obama and his establishment campaign, of big endorsements, money, ads on the Super Bowl. And Hillary Clinton again bounced back.

OVERBY: And here's the candidate herself.

Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York; Presidential Candidate): Well, he sure had a lot of establishment support yesterday, and I feel very good about the results.

OVERBY: All this came as Clinton revealed she had lent her campaign $5 million trying to catch up with Obama's media buys for Super Tuesday.

Yesterday, Campaign chairman Terry McAuliffe said the loan wasn't a sign of weakness, it was inspiring to legions of small donors. He let reporters listen in on a conference call with the campaign's biggest money raisers.

Mr. TERRY McAULIFFE (Campaign chairman, Hillary Clinton Presidential Campaign): People are stepping up to the plate. Hillary Clinton has stepped up for us and now we need to step up for her.

OVERBY: It's hard to exaggerate what a role reversal this is.

McAuliffe for decades has been a fixture of the Washington Democratic power structure. Clinton began the campaign with much of that power structure lined up behind her. Her money network has concentrated on donors who could give the maximum $2,300. That accounted for fully half of her money last year. It's more efficient at first, but maxed out donors can't give any more later.

So one of Clinton's chief money raisers, private equity financier Alan Patricof, gave this advice on the conference call.

Mr. ALAN PATRICOF (Cofounder, Apax Partners): The easy collections are from people who've given something already and have not gone to the maximum of $2,300. That's where I personally have had the most success is just rather than even starting with new people, there are so many people out there who gave partial amounts that you can go back to now.

OVERBY: What's happened is that the Internet has changed the rules of the fundraising game. Tony Corrado, a political scientist at Colby College, says raising money online is cheaper. It also takes virtually none of the candidate's time. And it's richly symbolic, as close connections to big donors can become a political liability.

Professor TONY CORRADO (Government, Colby College): It's now being seen in terms of whether a candidate is really tapping into the grassroots voter or whether they're relying on the same old power players and the money game.

OVERBY: Corrado notes that last month, Obama raised $32 million — $28 million of it online and another $7.5 million the same way since Super Tuesday.

Prof. CORRADO: Which is seen as a symbol of popular support. So what we're saying on behalf of the Clinton campaign now is trying to put more emphasis into to online fundraising as a way to show that they too have loyal supporters out there and that they're also enjoying success with smaller donors.

OVERBY: The Clinton campaign says it has raised more than $6.4 million online this week - enough to stay competitive on TV for upcoming primaries, and to change the candidates' image, too.

Peter Overby, NPR News, Washington.

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