Senator Barack Obama may be the junior senator from Illinois but in fundraising department, he’s a senior and he’s at the head of the ‘class.’ According to his financial statement, he has raised over $32 million for the second quarter of the current political year.
If money drives the engine in today’s political campaign, then Senator Barack Obama’s engine is poised to surge ahead leaving many of the other candidates trailing behind. Fresh from the recent Howard University presidential debate, Obama stated that his campaign is a grassroots effort and he is reaching out to all segments of the country, especially those who have heretofore been frustrated with national politics in general, and the presidential race in particular.
But more than just being masterful in the art of fundraising, Obama is energizing the body politic and the masses with his message. As he stated at Howard, “It is absolutely critical for us to recognize that there is going to be responsibilities on the part of African Americans and other groups to take personal responsibility to rise up out of the problems that we face.”
Regarding the presidential election, the State of California has the largest amount of delegates and the prevailing wisdom is that ‘a double win in California is a must’ for any candidate to garner the party’s nomination and to win the White House. In addition, the golden state is the treasure chest where Obama and the other candidates must come to raise a sizeable amount of their presidential ‘war chest.’ Former State Senator Art Torres, the person in charge of the California State Democratic party, said, “My duty is to run the Democratic campaigns in California, to raise the money to make those campaigns effective, to run a presidential campaign once we have a nominee and to register voters in those areas where we need increased voter registration.” Torres’ role becomes more significant since California is one of the states that have moved up its primary to February. Consequently, he doesn’t have much time left since there wouldn’t be much of an existing trail to follow because Californian will be among the first states to vote in the presidential primary.
Professor Michael Preston of the University of Southern California (U.S.C.) Political Science Department was very guarded in his comments about Obama’s fundraising strength primarily because it is still early in the race for the White House. The professor said, “I think that it’s a remarkable campaign thus far; he’s done remarkably well in fundraising. He’s been out, stated his position and evidently it’s been heard.”
In terms of being a neophyte to national politics, Preston indicated that is what is so remarkable about the Obama campaign. “He is a newcomer to the race, a fresh face and that makes it more interesting - his key positions,” Preston continued. “He’s against the war (in Iraq) and he’s for healthcare but basically, he’s outspoken in his views and he’s doing very well. He has put together 154,000 contributors and that in itself sets the foundation for the campaign later on, in each of the states, and that’s good.”
The source of Obama’s strength, notwithstanding the professor’s comments is not only his message, but it is also his ability to connect with the common folks in a practical way. In the Howard debate, he also stated, “The criminal justice system is not color blind. It does not work for all people equally and that is why it’s critical to have a president who sends a signal that we are going to have a system of justice that is not ‘just us,’ but is everybody. And that requires some political courage, because oftentimes you are accused of being soft on crime when you deal with these issues.”
Though the ability to raise dollars is not the definitive benchmark of capturing the presidency, it is certainly a strong indication and, in that respect, Obama is ‘leading the pack.’