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Clinton Donors Urged To Back Obama

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's top national fundraisers convened a series of conference calls today with major donors in various regions around the country to urge them to throw their financial weight behind Sen. Barack Obama -- sooner rather than later.

The calls were led by Jonathan Mantz, the Clinton campaign's finance director, and were cast as a follow-up on Clinton's appeal for unity during her concession speech over the weekend.

"Honestly, reaction has been mixed," said one source familiar with the calls. "There are a lot of hurt feelings out there. And a lot of folks that want to make sure Hillary is respected through the remaining process."

Obama campaign manager David Plouffe is expected to huddle with a number of Clinton donors later this week in New York City, according to Talking Points Memo, in order to make a personal appeal for their involvement on behalf of his candidate. The meeting was confirmed by Obama's campaign although they offered no specifics about the number of attendees or the location.

While the courtship of Clinton's biggest bundlers has gone public over the last few days, efforts at detente between the money men (and women) for each candidate has been ongoing for the last month or so.

A few weeks ago The Fix and the Post's Matt Mosk wrote about a Democratic National Committee fundraising dinner that brought together some of the heaviest hitters on each side of the Clinton-Obama split in hopes of bridging the gap between the two sides.

A number of upcoming fundraising events are aimed at further lowering tensions and welcoming the Clinton donors into the Obama fold.

While Obama's money machine -- large dollar donors and small dollar contributors -- has no peer in either party, Clinton's operation is strong in its own right, particularly among extremely wealthy individuals able to raise several hundred thousand dollars.

Obama has made no decision about public financing in the general election. It is one of the major choices he must make as the party's nominee.

No candidate has ever opted out of public financing in the general election since the system was created in 1976 and Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) has already signaled he will accept the roughly $84 million in taxpayer-funded cash for the general election sprint.

But, given Obama's massive fundraising abilities ($272 million raised through April), and the potential financial windfall the addition of Clinton's major backers could bring, it's possible that if he chooses to bypass the public financing system Obama could enjoy a two or even three-to-one spending edge over McCain between September and Election Day.

(Obama has until August 28 -- the day he will formally accept his party's nomination -- to make a decision about public financing. Until that time, Obama is allowed to raise general election funds as long as that money remains in a totally separate account and none of it is spent on primary activities.)

If Obama does opt out, McCain will surely bash the Illinois Senator as a politician who talks a big game on reform but doesn't follow through in his policies. But, voters rarely make decisions based on campaign finance questions -- the trail is littered with candidates who attempted to make their opponents' funding sources a campaign issue -- and it's hard to pass up such a huge potential fundraising edge.

By Chris Cillizza  |  June 10, 2008; 4:55 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008  
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