Dick Morris and  Eileen McGann

The Clintons had it all figured out. They thought they owned the Democratic Party. They thought that the coronation of Hillary as President of the second Clinton Administration was a done deal. They thought they could stop anyone who got in their way. And they tried.

They were already discussing cabinet members and focusing on how Hillary would 'govern' in 2009. They thought that it would be quick and easy walk to the nomination -- with all the money and all the support going to Hillary.

But guess what? The Clintons were wrong!

There's now a whole new ballgame in the Democratic race for president.

Senator Barack Obama's spectacular showing in the first quarter of fundraising demonstrates just how viable a candidate he is and just how strong a contender he will be in the Democratic primary.

Hillary's got a problem: As his fund raising demonstrates, Obama's not going away.

This race will be tight until the mega primary day next February. Hillary is not going to walk away with the nomination.

A newcomer to national politics, Obama has basically matched the renowned Clinton money machine in the first quarter of 2007. Competing against the former First Lady and the former President, veteran fundraisers who have been raising Democratic Party money for the last sixteen years, Obama, the neophyte, outdid them. He was fearless: He went into Clinton's back yard in New York and called donors that she considered her own. He battled her for Hollywood money and he outsmarted her on the internet.

He has to be considered to be the Democratic winner of what Bill Clinton said would constitute, in effect, the "first primary" – the March 31st financial filing.

Not only did he raise $25 million for the quarter -- compared to Hillary's $26 million -- but almost all of that sum -- $23.5 million – will be available for the primary. That's important because it means that he can go back to those people to contribute again for the general election. Each donor can give up to $2200 per election. So each person can give $2200 for the primary and another $2200 for the general election. While candidates can collect both sums now, they have to segregate the general election money in a special account that cannot be touched until after the primaries are over.

So far, Hillary has refused to say how much of the money that she raised can actually be spent in the primary. There were public reports that her fundraisers were pressuring donors to max out. But, until the mandatory public filings on April 15th, we can only conjecture that a far larger proportion of her money cannot be spent until after the Democratic convention.


Dick Morris and Eileen McGann

Dick Morris, a former political adviser to Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and President Bill Clinton, is the author of 2010: Take Back America. To get all of Dick Morris’s and Eileen McGann’s columns for free by email, go to www.dickmorris.com