Whistle Stop Weekend Begins
Two Presidential Hopefuls Stage Fundraisers This Weekend; Hillary Clinton Will Take Tabernacle Center Stage
By MIKE SECCOMBE
In the three-way contest for the hearts, minds and wallets of Democratic Party supporters on the Vineyard, Hillary Clinton, it is now clear, is way out in front.
Over the next six days, the three front runners for the party's Presidential nomination will hold events on the Island: John Edwards this evening, Mrs. Clinton on Saturday and Barack Obama next Wednesday.
But it is Mrs. Clinton, who will be accompanied by her husband the former president, who will see the most people, have the chance to sway the most opinion and raise the most money for her campaign.
After her in fundraising terms comes Mr. Obama, with Mr. Edwards a distant third, although he will probably meet more Islanders than Mr. Obama, who is here only for an exclusive, private high-roller function, closed to the press and anyone who cannot pay $1,000 and up.
The Clintons, in contrast to Mr. Obama, will be very accessible. More than 2,000 tickets have been sold at $50 each, for their 4:30 p.m. event at the Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs tomorrow. Demand was such that 200 extra seats were added to the Tabernacle's regular seating of 1,800, said one of the organizers, Nancy Parrish of Vineyard Haven.
And at press time the numbers were still growing.
"It is shaping up to be the largest event they've ever done at the Tabernacle," Ms. Parish said.
She anticipated more people, unwilling or unable to come up with the $50 admission cost, will picnic on the lawns outside.
The event has been billed as A Vineyard Evening with Hillary and President William Jefferson Clinton, with special guests Mary Steenburgen, Ted Danson and friends.
Ms. Parrish would not reveal what the other entertainment would be, apart from an all-Island choir of about 40 members, drawn from the ranks of several existing Island choirs.
It is also understood that Phil DaRosa, an Oak Bluffs native son and up-and-coming young musician, will open the event.
Total ticket sales will exceed $100,000, a sizeable amount, but considerably less than the Clintons are expected to raise in their second Island event, billed as a conversation and reception to be held at the home of Carol and Frank Biondi in Edgartown at 7 p.m. on the same night.
Attendance at the reception will cost $1,000 and those who also want the conversation will pay $2,300 (the maximum an individual can contribute to a campaign under the law).
It is understood there will be more than 400 people attending. The breakdown of between those just paying $1,000 and those paying $2,300 is unclear, but it seems likely ticket sales for both Clinton events are worth somewhere between $500,000 and $600,000, possibly more.
Senator Obama will reap only about half as much in ticket sales during his brief visit. And he will be seen by fewer than a tenth as many people - the latter a matter of some concern among supporters, who would have liked him also to do a low-dollar general public event like the Clintons, and John Edwards.
The Obama visit more resembles that of Republican hopeful Mitt Romney last weekend, in that it is very much under the radar. Mr. Romney attended a high-cost party hosted at a private home. Requests from the Gazette to attend the event and also to speak to Mr. Romney were refused.
Katie Hogan, spokeswoman for Mr. Obama, yesterday refused to offer any details about when exactly he would arrive on the Island or what he would do here, beyond what is already known, that he will attend a private function at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.
Asked if there would be any public sightings of the candidate, she said: "Not likely." She added: "When they are 100 per cent closed events, we don't give any details, numbers, or anything like that."
But it is understood the function is sold out. About 200 guests - about double the number Mr. Romney attracted - will attend the fundraiser, to be held at the home of Judith and Ron Davenport in Oak Bluffs.
They will enjoy different levels of access to the candidate, depending on whether they paid $2,300 to be hosts or $1,000 to be guests. Seventy-five hosts, according to one source, will attend a more intimate talk, making the value of total ticket sales close to $300,000.
In contrast to the Clinton juggernaut and the Obama rich-folks-only event, the John Edwards' appearance will be both small and accessible.
The $50-a-head function will be held on the lawn of Alex MacDonald and his wife Maureen Strafford in Chilmark beginning at 6 p.m. tonight.
No numbers were available yesterday, but suggestions were that a couple of hundred people would show up. Mr MacDonald said his lawn would take 500 or more.
There will also be a small, high-cost function for 20 or 25 people. The cost was not revealed.
This is not the only summer campaign swing for the Clintons, who held an event on Nantucket last night and visited the Hamptons for a gala fundraiser earlier this month.
The East Hampton Star, a 122-year-old independent weekly newspaper published on Long Island, reported that Mrs. Clinton raised $1 million during a single weekend of fundraising. "Hillary Clinton Raises a Cool Million Here," declared the headline on the lead story in the August 9 edition of the Star. The subhead read: "Bill helps himself to pulled pork and beans."