The Money Trail

After a lonely fall in which they watched the Dean people host all the cool events around town, John Edwards’s New York supporters were—finally—feeling a little popular. An exhausted but exuberant Edwards swept into a crowded Park Avenue living room for a fund-raiser the night after his shockingly strong second-place finish in Iowa, telling the crowd that he offered a “very different option of new and different” from Howard Dean. (Presumably a screech-free option.)

The long-scheduled event was suddenly such a hot ticket that Edwards backers added a second house party a few blocks away. The hostess of the first event, Carol Perlman, a communications consultant, enthused, “My friends thought I was crazy to support him, and it’s so great to say ‘I told you so.’ ”

In the lobby afterward, Edwards, wired on Diet Coke after 2 hours of sleep in the past 48, reveled in his reception. The doorman begged him for a photograph, and people are now reaching out to touch him as if he were Tom Cruise with a New South drawl. “I have no explanation for that,” he confessed. “It’s happened in the last few weeks.”

Dean’s Iowa meltdown (remixed sound bites of his rant—“Yeagh!”—were endlessly e-mailed back and forth over the very Internet that had once proved so kind to him) and Dick Gephardt’s withdrawal also gave new fiscal hope to Iowa winner John Kerry. “What’s amusing is all the people who now say they’ve always been Kerry supporters—and are just now returning my phone calls,” says Orin Kramer, a hedge-fund manager and Kerry fund-raiser. He adds that he’s also spoken with several high-profile Dean endorsers “who feel they can’t leave but wish he’d abandon the race.”

The Dean camp insists there have been no defectors. “Absolutely not,” says magazine publisher Diane Straus Tucker, a Dean friend since Yale. “I’ve gotten tons of e-mails and calls.” But one prominent—and early—Dean supporter says, “A lot of people are really freaked out. I worry that Dean’s going to plummet like a grand piano dropped out of a Sikorsky chopper.”

The Dean money may not be up for grabs (yet), but all the candidates are hot on the heels of Gephardt’s New York backers. “I got phone calls from Kerry’s and Clark’s fund-raisers,” says Lynn Forester de Rothschild. “I’m not doing anything. So many people let Dick down.” And Gregg Hymowitz, a hedge-fund manager who was Gephardt’s campaign co-chair, is torn between Edwards and Kerry, saying, “I don’t want to be wrong twice.”

Back on caucus night in Iowa, amid the bedlam of the Hotel Fort Des Moines, Kerry’s wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, had already been talking as if Dean’s campaign was fatally stalled: “He’s a phony; it was all a bluff.” But perhaps the most prescient comment came the night before the caucuses from a Kerry staffer who mused about the bright-orange Dean hats that read THE IOWA PERFECT STORM: “Didn’t anyone tell them that at the end of The Perfect Storm, everybody dies?”

The Money Trail