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With More Than $20 Million, Obama Reports Strong Quarter

By Matthew Mosk
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Democratic presidential candidates continued to pile up record amounts of campaign cash over the past three months, newly released figures show, further distancing them from their Republican counterparts.

Aides to Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) reported raising more than $20 million during the past three months, bringing the total he has raked in this year to close to $75 million for his primary campaign. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) last night had not yet reported her total for the quarter that ended Sept. 30, but her campaign predicted last week that the figure would be $17 million to $20 million.

Among them, the Democratic candidates have raised an estimated $225 million during the first nine months of the year. By the time Republicans reveal their latest numbers this week, they could be more than $80 million behind, according to preliminary reports from GOP campaign aides.

Obama's continued show of strength as a fundraiser came even as he has exhibited no significant gains in national opinion polls. He appeared to maintain his dominance as the candidate most capable of drawing funds from small-dollar donors, many of whom sent contributions through the Internet. His campaign said he had received money from 352,000 people. About $19 million of Obama's total came in funds that can be used in his primary campaign.

"Many in Washington have spent the last weeks declaring the outcome of this race to be preordained and the primary process a mere formality," said David Plouffe, Obama's campaign manager. "Yet, in this quarter alone, 93,000 more Americans joined our campaign, because they desire real change and believe Barack Obama is the one candidate who can deliver it."

Obama's totals and predictions from Clinton aides show that the race for the Democratic nomination remains a distinctly two-tiered contest. Senior aides to former senator John Edwards (N.C.) confirmed yesterday that his campaign raised roughly $7 million during the three-month period that ended Sept. 30. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson's campaign said he raised $5.2 million, while sources with the campaign of Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.) said he raised less than $2 million. Aides to Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (Conn.) said he had brought in about $1.5 million.

On the Republican aide, aides to former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney said he raised about $10 million over the past three months. Former senator Fred Thompson (Tenn.) is expected to report bringing in more than $8 million for the quarter, on top of the $3 million he had raised previously. Former New York City mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani had not yet released his total.

While Obama's three-month total was smaller than the sums he posted for each of the previous two quarters, it was a sizable haul. He has raised nearly four times as much as Democrat Howard Dean had at this point in 2003, and more than five times as much as Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), the eventual nominee.

James Bopp, a Republican National Committeeman from Indiana who is fundraising for Romney, said that the job of raising money is bound to get more difficult as the year wears on.

"You start with the most likely donors -- the low-hanging fruit," Bopp said. "The higher up the tree you go, the harder it is to reach it. It's just more difficult to find people willing to contribute."

For Romney, the shrinking donor pool has meant dipping deeper into his personal fortune to supplement contributions.

His campaign has not yet said how much of his own money he put into his campaign over the past three months. He had already put $9 million into his bid, and Romney aides said they expect that number to now be closer to $15 million.

Others have turned to the presidential public financing system, which can provide an infusion of cash in advance of the first primaries but also subjects candidates to limits on how they spend those funds. The limits severely restrict spending in crucial early contests, and they cap overall spending prior to the party conventions at the end of the summer to about $50 million.

Republican Rep. Tom Tancredo (Colo.) joined the ranks of those contemplating public financing, saying yesterday that he has reported $1.6 million in contributions to the Federal Election Commission in a request to qualify for federal matching funds. Edwards was the first to formally seek matching funds, and his senior adviser, Joe Trippi, said yesterday that he expects the campaign to receive $10 million in public financing. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has qualified for matching funds, but he has not yet decided whether he will take the money.

Critics have skewered Edwards's decision as one made out of desperation. But during a conference call yesterday, Trippi framed the decision to take matching money as one grounded in principle and political strategy, not financial need. "People are sick and tired of the corroded, busted, rigged system in Washington," he said.

Clinton spokesman Phil Singer declined to take a direct shot at Edwards but said: "The Edwards campaign says it opted into the public financing system out of principle. Others might come to a different conclusion."

Michael J. Malbin, executive director of the Campaign Finance Institute, said there is still plenty of money to be had.

A study of donations made during the first six months of 2007 found that more than 80 percent of people who donated to candidates in the 2008 race did not give money in 2004.

"More than 8 out of 10 donors who gave in the last presidential election have not weighed in yet," Malbin said. "There's a lot of untapped capacity out there."

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