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Originally published July 2, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified July 2, 2007 at 2:04 AM

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Obama outpaces rivals in race for contributions

The cash he's raked in is the largest quarterly total ever for a Democrat during an off-election year.

Chicago Tribune

WASHINGTON — Sen. Barack Obama on Sunday reported raising a formidable $32.5 million during the past three months, breaking records for a Democratic presidential candidate and demonstrating surging financial strength.

The Illinois senator's fundraising total placed him well ahead of his rivals in securing donor support for what is expected to be an extremely costly nominating season.

Of Obama's total, $31 million can be used for the primary campaign, half again as much as the $21 million reported by Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York. Including primary- and general-election funds, her campaign said it raised "in the range" of $27 million during the quarter.

That means Obama has outraised Clinton both during the recent quarter and for the first six months of 2007.

While money is just one ingredient in a campaign, Obama's fundraising pace underscores that even though he trails the more established Clinton in national polls, he quickly has created a national base in his quest for the Democratic presidential nomination.

It also puts him on a course to match and possibly exceed the resources available to Clinton, who came to the campaign with broad ties to Democratic supporters and a ready-made donor base.

The second quarter ended at midnight Saturday, amid a barrage of appeals from the campaigns for last-minute contributions. The candidates must file detailed disclosures by July 15 but are free to release figures earlier, something none of the major Republican candidates did Sunday.

In announcing its fundraising totals, the Obama campaign moved to ensure that his success would dominate the political news cycle as Clinton embarked on a three-day tour of Iowa with her husband, former President Bill Clinton. The trip is the first time the Clintons have campaigned together in the state.

"Hillary has had a couple of good weeks, but there's nothing like killing momentum for Obama to come in with these unbelievably high fundraising numbers," said Jenny Backus, a Democratic consultant who is not aligned in the presidential contests.

Despite the celebrity media coverage Obama has received since he arrived on the national stage in 2004, he is a much less familiar figure to most voters than Clinton is. And the advertising that campaigns traditionally use to introduce voters to a candidate can be expensive.

Obama began advertising last week, with two television commercials in Iowa introducing his biography to voters. Clinton has not yet begun advertising.

The Obama campaign stressed the breadth of its fundraising support, reporting that more than 154,000 new donors had given during the April-June period for a total donor database of 258,000.

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"Together, we have built the largest grass-roots campaign in history for this stage of a presidential race," Obama said in a statement.

The Clinton campaign had about 60,000 donors in the first quarter, but did not release a total for the past three months.

Obama's fundraising receipts were the largest quarterly total ever for a Democratic candidate during an off-election year. President Bush, who raised $35.1 million as an incumbent president during the April-June quarter of 2003, is the only candidate who has exceeded the total.

The $32.5 million that Obama reported was a substantial increase from the $25.7 million he raised during the first quarter. Clinton's estimate of approximately $27 million compared with the $26 million she reported during the earlier quarter.

Among other Democrats, former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina finished third in the fundraising race this quarter, meeting his $9 million goal after a last-minute appeal from his wife, Elizabeth, that played off of controversial remarks by conservative television commentator Ann Coulter. Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico was not far behind, raising $7 million for the quarter.

Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., raised $3.25 million for the second quarter, giving him $12.25 million this year.

On the Republican side, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney told his fundraising team Friday that his second quarter fell short of the $21 million he raised in the first quarter, leaving an opening for former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani to take the second-quarter fundraising lead. Giuliani is expected to announce his numbers today or Tuesday.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., was hoping to finish third, with a total of between $10 million and $15 million.

The strategic implications of the fundraising performance were apparent in comments the Obama and Edwards campaigns made.

Obama's campaign said the latest fundraising total shows it will have the resources to compete not only in the early states of Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida, but also in a group of more than 20 states expected to hold primaries Feb. 5.

"We are on a financial course that will allow us to both fully fund efforts in the early primary and caucus states, and also participate vigorously in all the Feb. 5 contests, including large states like California, New Jersey, New York, Georgia and Missouri," campaign manager David Plouffe wrote on the campaign's Web site.

Edwards' deputy campaign manager, Jonathan Prince, said the campaign would concentrate its resources in the earlier states. "The nomination is going to be won or lost in those early states," he said.

None of the major candidates released figures on their spending. But each will have to disclose detailed information on expenditures as well as contributions by July 15.

Material from The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and The Associated Press is included in this report.

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