The story goes that while running for re-election as vice president in 1980, Walter Mondale agreed to meet with Philadelphia Democratic ward leaders.

The long-winded Mondale was going on and on about some sort of policy issue when Sam Grillo, of Kensington, interrupted.

"That's great, Mr. Vice President," Grillo growled, "but what about the street money?"

The same question is being asked today of Sen. Barack Obama.

U.S. Rep. Robert A. Brady, the city Democratic chairman, said today he was waiting for imminent word from the Obama campaign on how much, if any, money it is willing to pay to oil the party machine on Election Day, Nov. 4.

"They're going to do their budget later today or tomorrow," Brady said.

Sean Smith, Obama's Pennsylvania campaign spokesman, said he could not say "one way or the other" today whether Obama would provide street money.

Philadelphia is one of the last big American cities where the Democratic Party still expects candidates at all levels to come up with cash to compensate party supporters for their election efforts.

The money can be substantial. In 2002, while making his first successful run for governor, former Philadelphia Mayor Edward G. Rendell spread $450,000 in cash across the streets, avenues and boulevards of the city, according to a post-election analysis of his campaign records by The Inquirer. Not all of it went directly to the party.

Brady declined to comment on what he hoped Obama would come up with, saying only: "I'll take what I can get."

City Controller Alan Butkovitz, leader of the 54th Ward in Northeast Philadelphia, guessed that Obama would offer at least $200 to compensate party workers in each of the city's 69 Democratic wards, divided into 1,681 divisions, each with two committee members.

"I'd guess it'll at least be in the $350,000 range," Butkovitz said.

He speculated that if Obama fell short of what the ward leaders wanted or expected, the party might try to hit up either Rendell or Mayor Nutter to help out. Neither is on the ballot this year, but each still has cash in his campaign coffers.

Butkovitz noted that Rendell, in particular, would love to gain "bragging rights" by having his important state go for Obama over Republican Sen. John McCain.

He imagined the party leaders' sales pitch to Rendell: "We know it's not your obligation - but don't you really, really want to see a big win?"

In addition to expecting help from the party apparatus, Obama will have hundreds of his own - unpaid - volunteer workers on the streets.