THE MONEY GAME: FIRST QUARTER THE DEMOCRATS: OBAMA’S STUNNING FUNDRAISING UPSET: WHAT IT MEANS FOR HILLARY 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. But even more important is the fact that Obama raised $6.9 million online while Hillary raised only $4.2 through the Internet. Online one can reload quickly and fire often. The fact that Obama has amassed 100,000 donors -- including 50,000 online -- shows how effective he has been. Hillary tried hard. She sent out solicitation emails from Bill Clinton and James Carville. And the campaign sent out numerous additional emails pleading for online contributions before the March 31 deadline. The results were underwhelming. The Clintons have been amassing donors for Hillary's 2008 race ever since Bill first ran in 1992. Year after year, armed with the prestige of the presidency in the 90s and the glow of an ex-presidency in this decade, they have courted and cultivated the rich and powerful. But Obama came from nowhere, from a dead start, to raise as much money, likely from more donors, than Hillary. That is quite an accomplishment. Obama is for real! One thing is for certain: this amazing showing by Obama definitely has the Clintons freaked. On some level, they knew it was coming. Last week, Clinton campaign chairman Terry McAuliffe issued a preemptory warning that Obama’s totals would be competitive. How did he know that? Could it be that a lot of the usual doors for Clinton dollars were being closed in their faces? The Clinton campaign’s frenetic cross-country grab for dollars last week suggested uneasiness. They evidently knew that they would not reach their publicly stated $30 million goal. And, at the last minute, Hillary suddenly dumped the $11 million left in her Senate campaign account into her presidential campaign in an effort to put some daylight between her funding totals and Obama’s. Worries about Obama can perhaps explain why they chose to leak their cash total to the Drudge Report on April 1st. How ironic that Matt Drudge -- who broke the Monica Lewinsky story and has been a constant thorn in the Clintons sides for a decade -- was singled out by them to report their cash totals ahead of the mainstream media. If there is anyone left who discounts the influence and reach of the Drudge Report, the Clintons have proven them wrong. Congratulations, Matt!