THE FIRST TEST: WHO CAN RAISE THE MOST CASH
After Barack Obama posted an online video to announce he was running for President and promised a new kind of politics for his campaign, he went straight old-school. He spent much of the rest of his day dialing for dollars, asking wealthy Democrats to support him in his quest to compete with Hillary Clinton's deep pockets. When Clinton got into the race a few days later, the New York Senator made clear she would avoid public financing for her campaign--forgoing a system that matches the first $250 of every individual campaign donation--because she believes she can raise much more than the $50 million limit imposed on candidates who accept matching funds in the primary.
The 2008 presidential campaign may show that race, religion and gender don't matter, but money still talks, and more loudly than ever before. In 2003, John Edwards surprised everyone by raking in $7 million in campaign donations in the first three months of the year. That amount will be like Monopoly money after 2008. Strategists say the two eventual party nominees could well spend up to $500 million each before the general election.
Whether they get their money by calling, blogging or throwing lavish fund raisers, would-be contenders had better start quickly. Raising even $50 million for the primary this year means coming up with $137,000 a day.