Obama Outraises Clinton Among Small Town Pennsylvanians

Sen. Barack Obama's political opponents charge that his recent remarks on the economic woes and bitterness of low-income voters put him gravely out of touch with small town Pennsylvanians.

But a review of campaign finance records -- conducted for The Huffington Post by the Spotfire Division of software firm TIBCO -- reveals that it is Obama, not Sen. Hillary Clinton, who has received the majority of donations from these very same Keystone State communities.

Indeed, through the end of February 2008, Obama received nearly $250,000 in contributions from Pennsylvanians residing in zip codes with populations under 30,000 people. That total, which does not include Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and both city's suburbs, was roughly $30,000 more than the amount raised by Clinton: $220,000.

When the population size is made even smaller, Obama continues to best his Democratic rival. Among those non-urban Pennsylvania zip codes with populations under 20,000, the Illinois Democrat has brought in just over $200,000. Clinton has raised slightly more than $170,000.

(Obama's advantage may in fact be even stronger than these numbers show, since campaigns do not provide information on donors who gave under $200, a subset where Obama has excelled. See the complete data here.)


"Essentially, this is a separation between the smaller areas in Pennsylvania as opposed to the two major cities and their surrounding areas," said Tim Wormus, an analytics guru with Spotfire. "It gives you a much different demographic and donation profile than when you just look at the state as a whole."

Obama's advantage in these small rural communities is undoubtedly a reflection of his broader organizing and fundraising prowess. In March, for example, the senator raised twice as much as Clinton -- $40 million to her $20 million -- which in turn likely added to his small town Pennsylvania fundraising lead.

But the figures also cut against some conventional political wisdom: mainly, that Clinton has been challenging Obama almost strictly on the large advantages she has in rural, white communities.

Of course, the predictive powers of fundraising data are highly debatable. Rep. Ron Paul, for instance, did not win a single election in the Republican primary despite raising more than most of his challengers. And because the sample size of this query is small (smaller communities have fewer donors), and because Obama's remarks on the economic angst of these towns were only recently made, it would be difficult to jump to any conclusion about the state of Pennsylvania's upcoming primary based on the contributions of its low-populated communities.

Nevertheless, campaign finance experts argue, fundraising records do provide a limited snapshot of where voters will ultimately lean politically.

"People who contribute money are going to vote," Massie Ritsch, a spokesperson for the Center for Responsive Politics, recently told The Huffington Post. "I don't think anyone is making a contribution to a candidate and then staying home on Election Day. Because of that you can draw some conclusion about a candidate's popular support based on the money that they've raised."