Hillary Rodham Clinton

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton will return to California over the weekend to raise money for her campaign. (Charlie Neibergall / Associated Press)

By Evan Halper and Melanie Mason
September 24, 2015

During a month in which some of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s biggest donors fretted, obsessed and second-guessed over her campaign, it wasn’t Clinton’s big policy speeches on healthcare or her vow to block the Keystone XL pipeline that helped ease nerves.

It was her several minutes of banter with “Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon.

Such are the mechanics of the Clinton campaign money machine, which is driven in large part by an extremely fickle – some might argue self-important – group of California moguls. Clinton will be back in California on Sunday to collect yet more checks. And one of the toughest challenges she and her advisors face is convincing this crowd of Hollywood executives and other titans of West Coast industry that they’ve got the campaign under control.

Lately, it’s been tough. Rival Bernie Sanders – a self-described socialist – is ahead in New Hampshire. The threat of the charming and formidable Vice President Joe Biden crashing the nominating contest looms. The FBI is investigating Clinton’s email server. It’s all amounted to a lot of nail-biting and hand-wringing in the cocktail lounges of Beverly Hills and beach houses of Malibu.

“It is something everyone is talking about,” said one prolific Clinton fundraiser, who asked to remain unnamed for fear of antagonizing the campaign. “Is she going to lose? What is going on? Is Biden running? Is she in trouble? Why is the campaign doing this or that?”

The worrying calmed down some after the “Tonight Show” appearance, where Clinton showed the easygoing, relatable and ultimately reassuring side of herself that voters so rarely get to see. It aired the same night as the GOP debate in Simi Valley, the content of which panicked some previously unmotivated Clinton donors in California enough to pull out their checkbooks.

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