Political Capital with John Harwood

Clinton, Edwards: Avoiding Private Equity Tax Debate?

Well, one asset those hedge fund managers enjoy right now is the presidential fund-raising chase. As all the top candidates sprint toward the June 30 second-quarter fund-raising deadline, even left-leaning Democrats aren’t rushing to embrace the “carried interest” issue. Sen. Hillary Clinton hasn’t a position. Nor has the populist champion John Edwards--who also happens to be a former employees of Fortress Investment Group.

The money game is often used as an early indicator of strength in the 2008 race. That produces an immense amount of psychological warfare between top campaigns, designed to influence reactions by political observers when the numbers actually come out.

Right now, signs from Team Clinton suggest they’ll raise around $27-million but will be outgunned by Barack Obama, who could top $30-million. Team Obama forecasts both front-runners to be below $30-million. On the Republican side, none of the top contenders is forecast about $20-million--an expectation certain to produce a collective “Wow” if one of them does.

Here’s a tip for tracking this game: it is overrated. Money is not going to decide the Clinton-Obama race. Both have plenty of money to wage competitive campaigns. Unless conditions change dramatically, Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and Fred Thompson will too.

Cash will separate the front-runners from the also rans. But within the top tier, they’ll have to win it the old-fashioned way--by lighting a fire underneath the right primary voters at the right time.

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