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Clinton Loans Campaign $5 Million


The dust has settled from the primaries and caucuses of Super Tuesday and the two Democratic candidates fought each other to a draw. Now Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are preparing for a long battle, a battle in which Clinton is suddenly the financial underdog. NPR National Political Correspondent Mara Liasson reports.

MARA LIASSON: Neither campaign could plausibly claim a victory over the other on Tuesday night. The battle ahead, with a few primaries every week or so, will be grueling and hugely expensive. Yesterday Senator Clinton announced she had loaned her campaign $5 million. Asked where she got the money, she said this:

Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York, Presidential Candidate): I loaned the campaign $5 million from my money. That's where I got the money. I loaned it because I believe very strongly in this campaign. We had a great month fundraising in January, broke all records. But my opponent was able to raise more money.

LIASSON: Some of her senior campaign staff will begin working without pay, just as some of Rudy Giuliani's did a month ago. It was an extraordinary reversal for a campaign that had raised more than $100 million last year and has been run as the Mercedes Benz of the 2008 presidential race. But in January Clinton raised under $14 million, just half of Obama's 32 million for the month. And Senator Clinton was even challenging Barack Obama to debates, usually the tactic of a candidate that needs to catch up.

There have already been 18 Democratic debates, and to underline the point, Obama refused to commit for now. It was all summed up when Mark Penn, Clinton's chief strategist, insisted to reporters that Clinton was now the underdog and Obama was the quote "establishment candidate."

Mr. MARK PENN (Chief Strategist, Hillary Clinton): 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 to win a strong win.

MARA LIASSON: Senator Clinton herself continued that bit of spin in her press conference yesterday.

Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York; Democratic Presidential Candidate): They sure had a lot of establishment support yesterday, and the governor and both senators in Massachusetts endorsed my opponent.

LIASSON: It was a Lewis Carroll through-the-looking-glass moment. The Clinton campaign claiming an upset victory in Massachusetts, a state where she had a huge lead, all because they had beat Teddy Kennedy. Speaking at his press conference yesterday, Obama wasn't giving up the underdog title so easily.

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois; Democratic Presidential Candidate): I mean, I think the Clinton camp's basic attitude was that the whole calendar was set up to deliver the knockout blow on February 5th. And not only did we play them to a draw, we won more delegates and we won more states.

LIASSON: Obama did win more states, at least 13 of the 22 voting, and the two candidates were tied in the popular vote and roughly tied in the delegate count. The Associated Press calculates that Clinton won just 39 more delegates on Tuesday out of 1,681 at stake. Obama also pushed back against Clinton's assertion on Tuesday night that she was a better general election candidate because she was battle-tested.

Sen. OBAMA: Whoever the Democratic nominee is, the Republicans will go after them. The notion that somehow that Senator Clinton is going to be immune from attack or that there's not a whole dump truck that they can back up in a match-up between her and John McCain, I think is just not true.

LIASSON: The pace of the primary schedule is about to slow down, a state here and there rather than 20 in one day. That may give Obama more time to do the kind of intensive campaigning that has paid off for him in the past. Many of the states coming up next look friendly to Obama. Louisiana, for example, with it's big African-American population, Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia. Later on, Clinton has her three firewalls, Ohio, Texas, and Pennsylvania, the kind of big states that could tip the balance one way or the other.

Mara Liasson, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.