STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
Here's something else you might put on your credit card, a contribution to your favorite presidential candidate. You have plenty to choose from. The price tag for the 2008 campaign is likely to top $1 billion. So the need for candidates to raise money and do it quickly is one reason the race for the presidency is already a sprint.
Throughout this long campaign, we will be examining what it takes to run for president.
RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
Today, we're going to look at campaign fundraising with one of the best in the business. Terry McAuliffe was the Democratic Party's top fundraiser when Bill Clinton was president. This time around, he's chairman of Senator Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. He came to our studio here in Washington yesterday. I asked him how much money a candidate needs to be taken seriously.
TERRY MCAULIFFE: I believe that you would have to raise a minimum of around $35 million this year to be in the game.
MONTAGNE: This year, 2007.
MCAULIFFE: In 2007. Because, Renee, you got to understand. This thing - a year from today, there is a nominee of the Democrat, Republican Party. It's over. This is the fastest calendar we've ever had. California has indicated they're moving up. Illinois said they're moving up. Michigan is moving up. New Jersey is moving up. You've got huge states that are going to go on February 5th.
So you've got, you know, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Carolina. They're all bunched in about 10 days beginning around middle of January. But by February 5th, huge states are going to go, it's over.
MONTAGNE: That's - you've got a candidate.
MONTAGNE: Then you've got another nine months...
MONTAGNE: ...to spend money.
MCAULIFFE: Unfortunately, you then have a 10-month general election. But a for candidate in the primaries, you got to have enough money, Renee, to play in those smaller states. And you're - you either win on those states or coming in second, and the press thinks you're viable. And if you don't, in those four, you're out. It's over. It's gone.
MONTAGNE: And for a candidate to prove that he's got viability or she has got viability, is there a monetary marker that they have to meet so that people believe in them?
MCAULIFFE: Yeah. I think by the end of the year if you haven't - you know, I think by June 30 report - and clearly by the September report, the end of September - if you're not really showing any cash on hand and they don't think you can mount an effective campaign in those first primary states, then I think the press will pretty much dismiss you.
MONTAGNE: Right now, going forward, when you go to these big fundraisers, what's your pitch?
MCAULIFFE: I get up and talk about Hillary Clinton and say you need to support Hillary Clinton. She's going to win. You know, when you're raising money, remember, nobody can give more to Hillary than, you know, $2,300 you can do for the primary and the general. So you say we need your help to support Hillary, and go raise money. It's not all that complicated.
But you've got to convince donors, first of all, or individuals, that you're going win, because honestly, no one wants to support a loser. Second of all, you got to make sure they're passionate about your candidate, because they're not going to go out and give and raise money unless they feel connected to the candidate on the issues. And if you don't have that, you know, they're not going to go make 20 calls and ask someone to give you, you know, $1,000 or $2,000. It just won't happen.
MONTAGNE: Is there anyone you can't call?
MCAULIFFE: No. I love it when they say no to me. Then that's the beginning. Okay, here's why you want to help me. You know, listen, all through high school and college, you know, women were always saying no; I had to go back in again and say, please, go on one date with me. I mean you got to sell. It's all about selling. You got to have fun. You got to have passion about it.
MONTAGNE: Let's get to spending the money. Can you overspend?
MCAULIFFE: You can never put enough money, I would say, to grassroots, to go out and to connect with the voters. Can you put too much money on television? Can you get to a point that there's not an inverse return for your investment?
MONTAGNE: Is there a saturation point?
MONTAGNE: For instance, on television ads, radio ads?
MCAULIFFE: Yeah. I think there is. I think, you know, by the end of '04, I think people just stopped watching all television. I mean I think these campaign managers have to take a serious look at the amount that you spend on television. There is many other ways, through the Internet and other ways, to actually connect with voters and try and target.
You can't beat the personal touch. That's why in the past you've seen the Republican be successful through the churches every Sunday. You know, going in and having the Pastor say, well, because of this issue of choice or gay rights legislation, you know, I mean that's very effective. And as you go down to the spectrum, down to television, that's very impersonal and you have no idea if you're actually connecting with the voter or not.
MONTAGNE: Well, finally, people are talking about this being a record-shattering campaign.
MCAULIFFE: Yeah. Yeah.
MONTAGNE: What do you think it's going to end up costing?
MCAULIFFE: Every four years they're bigger. So now it's not like this is any different than every four years. I can just tell you, between the DNC and the Kerry campaign, we were a billion dollars. And the RNC and the Bush campaign were a billion dollars. I don't see, to be honest with you, Renee, that going down. I think it'll probably be north of that. I just think now we have a couple of years to bring in a lot of new smaller donors. So the good news is, I think it will be a lot more money coming in. If you have the intensity we had in '04 andthe Iraq war is still raging the way it is today, a lot more money is going to come in. But I think the reason for that is a lot more people are going to partake in the political system.
MONTAGNE: Terry McAuliffe, thanks for joining us.
MCAULIFFE: Renee, thank you.
MONTAGNE: Terry McAuliffe is the chairman of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign and author of "What a Party," a book about his life in politics. You can read an excerpt at npr.org. And in the coming weeks, we'll be talking with members of other campaigns about what it takes to run for president.
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