Campaigns Raise, Burn More Cash, More Quickly

By Matthew Mosk and Sarah Cohen
Washington Post Staff Writers and Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, July 16, 2007

Candidates for the White House are not only raising far more than ever before, many are also spending that money as fast as they get it, leaving some close to being forced from the race almost six months before the first votes are cast.

Campaign finance reports released in recent days show that the spending spree is a reality for both front-runners and long shots. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R) burned through more than $20 million in the past three months, 50 percent more than he raised during that span. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) blew through the $11 million he raised during the past quarter and has barely enough money to keep going, even with his dramatically scaled-down operation.

The frenzy of spending has put the squeeze on several candidates in both parties who are struggling to keep pace during the long march to the first primaries in January, even as the gap between the haves and have-nots expands.

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) raised $32.8 million during the quarter -- the most of any candidate -- and spent about $16 million to finish June with $34.5 million in the bank, plus another $1.7 million that will be available if he becomes the nominee.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) raised more than $28 million and spent $12 million, finishing the quarter with $32.6 million -- plus $12 million she can use if she becomes the nominee, according to her campaign.

Former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani led the Republican field by raising $17.3 million in the period. He spent $11 million, a modest amount when compared with other contenders but high by historical standards. At this point in 2003, the eventual Democratic nominee, Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), had raised $13 million but had spent only $4 million. Then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush raised a record $37 million for the second quarter of 1999 and spent only $3.9 million.

Some candidates have already had the excruciating discussion with advisers about whether to hang on and have concluded they could not. Former Virginia governor James S. Gilmore III made that call Saturday. Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) and former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack (D) reached that conclusion earlier in the year.

"It's tough. Very tough," said Vilsack adviser Gerald Crawford. "He faced the prospect of developing a big debt. He decided to make that move while the debt was still manageable. It's unfortunate in our system that money can drive credible voices out of the race."

Those now struggling include former Wisconsin governor Tommy G. Thompson (R), who, when debt is factored in, is now operating almost $6,000 in the red, and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee (R), who has $435,000 left.

"My goal for the second quarter was to have enough cash to get through the Iowa straw poll, which we have," Huckabee said in a statement, referring to a major gathering of Republicans in Ames, Iowa, next month.

Sens. Christopher J. Dodd (Conn.) and Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.), both struggling for a chance to break into the top tier of Democratic contenders, also spent more than they brought in last quarter.

McCain ended June with $3.2 million in cash on hand, with $1.9 million available for the primary campaign, but was saddled with $1.8 million in debt. His supporters said he has a strong enough base of support, and is such a well-known figure, that he can proceed with a vigorous if scaled-back effort.

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