Obama campaign says he’s raised $7 million since Super Tuesday, Clinton pulls in $4 million

By Charles Babington

NEW ORLEANS – Democrat Barack Obama raised $7.2 million in less than 48 hours post Super Tuesday and rival Hillary Rodham Clinton collected $4 million, giving him a financial edge that’s caused consternation within a Clinton campaign clamoring for attention-getting debates.

The remarkable outpouring of contributions recorded since Tuesday’s contests in 22 states comes on the heels of an eye-poppping $32 million raised by Obama in January and the record-shattering $100 million each Obama and Clinton raised in 2007 in their neck-and-neck race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Obama has been riding a wave of fundraising from large donors and small Internet contributors. While not matching Obama’s pace, Clinton also saw an online surge of donations from 35,000 new contributors since midnight Tuesday, Clinton campaign aides said.

Clinton acknowledged Wednesday that she loaned her campaign $5 million late last month as Obama was outraising and outspending her heading into Feb. 5 Super Tuesday contests. Some senior staffers on her campaign also are voluntarily forgoing paychecks as the campaign heads into the next round of contests.

Buoyed by strong fundraising and a primary calendar in February that plays to his strengths, Obama plans a campaign blitz through a series of states holding contests this weekend and will compete to win primaries in the Mid-Atlantic next week and Hawaii and Wisconsin the following week.

He campaigned in Louisiana Thursday, vowing to help New Orleans recover from Hurricane Katrina by improving levees, schools and health care, and closely overseeing the Federal Emergency Management Agency if he becomes president. The state holds its contest Saturday.

“When I am president,” Obama told about 4,000 people in Tulane University’s basketball arena, “we will finish building a system of levees that can withstand a 100-year storm by 2011, with the goal of expanding that protection to defend against a Category 5 storm.”

Clinton, with less money to spend and less confident of her prospects in the February contests, will instead concentrate on Ohio and Texas, large states with primaries March 4 and where polling shows her with a significant lead. She even is looking ahead to Pennsylvania’s primary April 22, believing a large elderly population there will favor the former first lady.

In a sign of Clinton’s increasing concern about Obama’s growing strength, her campaign manager, Patti Solis, sent a letter Thursday to the Obama campaign seeking five debates between the two candidates before March 4.

“I’m sure we can find a suitable place to meet on the campaign trail,” Solis wrote. “There’s too much at stake and the issues facing the country are too grave to deny voters the opportunity to see the candidates up close.”

Obama rejected a debate proposed as soon as this Sunday to be broadcast on ABC, but his campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Thursday, “there will definitely be more debates, we just haven’t set a schedule yet.”