Sunday, April 22, 2007

Show Me the Money Democrats

[A story in the Tulsa World today describes the current fundraising by presidential candidates in Oklahoma. When Randy Krehbiel called me about this story we talked at length of the role of money and the internet in campaigns and how campaigns are changing. Read the story below.]

ZIP code delivers for candidates

by: RANDY KREHBIEL World Staff Writer

Presidential campaign contributions keep pouring in from 74114 addresses.

If money really does talk, a swath of Tulsa a mile wide and five miles long could have the loudest voice in Oklahoma's 2008 presidential politics.

Tulsa's 74114 ZIP code, lying between 21st and 31st streets from the Arkansas River to Sheridan Road, includes some of the state's wealthiest and most politically diverse neighborhoods. Contributions from the 74114 ZIP code to 2004 presidential campaigns totaled $186,176 -- evenly divided between Republican and Democrat and almost twice as much as for any other state ZIP code.

The first quarterly report of the 2008 campaign suggests a similar pattern. Contributions from the midtown Tulsa ZIP code came to $112,650, more than twice as much as Edmond's 73003, second on the list at $54,163.

ZIP code areas vary in size, and donor addresses can be for a home, business or post office box. Some donors list multiple addresses. But even with the 2008 campaign in its early days, the most recent Federal Election Commission filings provide some data worth watching.

Perhaps most intriguing is the apparent reluctance of Oklahoma Republicans to commit, at least financially, to any candidate. Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani reported $138,650 from Oklahoma, a respectable figure but well behind Democrats Barack Obama ($309,111) and John Edwards ($219,247).

The five other Republicans in the race -- John McCain, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Ron Paul and Tom Tancredo -- did not raise as much combined as Giuliani by himself.

All told, almost three-quarters of the Oklahoma money raised during the first quarter of the campaign went to Democrats.

State GOP Chairman Gary Jones said Oklahoma Republicans are waiting for all their options before making a decision.

"Until we hear from all the potential candidates, people are taking a wait-and-see attitude," Jones said.

Television actor and former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson won a straw poll at the recent state GOP convention. Former U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich also seems to have some support in the state.

Neither is a formal candidate, although both have made noises about getting into the race.

"The race right now is about money," Jones said. "It's not about ideology or policy."

Perhaps partly because of that, he thinks, Oklahoma Republicans feel little urgency about the early starting 2008 campaign, especially given the state's voting history.

"If you take all of the people who have declared on the Democratic side, any one of the Republicans would beat them in Oklahoma," he said.

Lisa Pryor, the state Democratic Party chairwoman, has a different read.

"I think the Republicans are so demoralized and embarrassed by this administration they just don't know what to do," she said.

A comparison of 2004's top ZIP codes with their early 2008 giving suggests a difference in enthusiasm, whatever the reason.

Take Tulsa's 74114. In 2004, it sent $92,901 to Republican incumbent George W. Bush's campaign -- the most in the state.

In just the first quarter of this year, it contributed $103,500 to Democratic candidates, more than it contributed to Democrats during the entire 2004 campaign.

Republicans, meanwhile, received $9,150 from 74114.

Other areas in Tulsa and the Oklahoma City area that have bankrolled Republican candidates in the past reported similar results.

Edmond's 73003 ZIP, which in 2004 contributed $41,980 to Bush and $25,500 to all Democrats combined, has already given $44,100 (albeit mostly from a single law firm) to Edwards alone.

Northwest Oklahoma City's 73120, which encompasses the upscale neighborhoods in The Village, was the No. 2 ZIP code in 2004 when it contributed more than $70,000 to Bush and $97,799 to all candidates. In this campaign it has given $11,750 to Giuliani, $650 to McCain and $500 to Romney. It's given just under $18,000 to Democrats -- roughly the same as for all of the 2004 campaign.

South Tulsa ZIPs codes 74105, 74136 and 74137 totaled $269,698 in contributions in 2004, of which almost three-quarters went to Bush.

This time around those three ZIPs, typically more heavily Republican than 74114, have been quiet. Of their combined $73,710 in contributions, nearly two-thirds has gone to Barack Obama.

Pryor maintains that the early surge in Democratic fundraising is no false start.

"I think there's quite a bit of money still out there," she said.

Clearly, a lot of GOP money is still out there. The extent to which Oklahoma Republicans rally behind their party's eventual nominee -- and whether the Democrats' present optimism will make a difference 18 months from now -- is a drama that could well be played out in miniature in a strip of Tulsa one mile wide and five miles long.

World staff writer Curtis Killman contributed to this story.

Randy Krehbiel 581-8365

Copyright © 2007, World Publishing Co. All rights reserved

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