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Clinton and Obama in a dead heat

Times Staff Writers

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign bank account is bulging with nearly $31 million, significantly more than any other candidate of either party in the presidential race, campaign finance reports filed Sunday revealed.

But Sen. Barack Obama, one of Clinton’s main rivals for the Democratic nomination, all but matched her dollar for dollar in fundraising during the first 90 days of 2007.

And in a show of strength, Obama raised substantially more than Clinton in funds that can be directed to their primary election contest. Much of Clinton’s money was raised for use in the general election and, by law, cannot be directed to her fight for the Democratic nomination.

Despite holding federal office for only two years, Obama raised almost as much as Clinton in the first three months of the year, bringing in $25.7 million to Clinton’s $26.1 million, the reports showed. Clinton was able to give herself a boost by transferring into her presidential account $10 million left over from her last Senate race.

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After spending, she had $31 million on hand, compared with $19.2 million for Obama. Former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, another major Democratic candidate, raised $14 million, with $10.7 million in the bank.

Combined, the top three Democrats raised $66 million -- significantly more than the three top Republicans’ $49 million, although the gap probably will narrow as election day nears.

“It is not how much you have today. It is how much when the general election starts,” said Doug Ose, a Sacramento-area Republican developer who served three terms in Congress ending in 2005.

California gives to Obama

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Obama’s strong fundraising had been known, but new details became available as the candidates met a deadline for filing detailed reports. Among the disclosures:

* The Illinois Democrat’s biggest donor state was California, providing him with $4.2 million, followed by his home state at $3.8 million. Obama also did well on Clinton’s home turf, raising $2.8 million in New York.

* Clinton ceded Illinois to Obama, raising $374,000 there. Her richest vein was in the Northeast, at $9.5 million, including $7 million from New York.

* Clinton raised $5.1 million from California and $3.5 million in Washington, D.C. Obama said he was shunning money from Washington lobbyists and political action committees. He raised $876,000 from the nation’s capital.

* Of the three, Edwards raised the most in the Southern states -- $5 million, followed by Clinton at $3.6 million and Obama at $2.7 million. California was Edwards’ biggest donor state, at $2.1 million.

As big as the numbers are, they are sure to grow. Top candidates are likely to raise more than $100 million this year. Former President Clinton, aiding his wife’s campaign, spent part of his weekend raising money for her in California.

“The first quarter is when you get your low-hanging fruit,” said John Emerson, a Clinton fundraiser and a partner in the money management firm Capital Guardian Trust Co.

He noted that fundraising could become somewhat more difficult later in the year, particularly in the summer, but would pick up in the fourth quarter as the first caucuses and primaries neared.

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This is the first campaign in which most major candidates are seeking money for the primary election and general election. The distinction is important. Federal law bars candidates from spending money raised for the general election in the primary contests.

Obama’s fundraising included $24.8 million specifically for the primary, more than any other candidate, Democratic or Republican. Clinton raised $19.1 million for the primary, and Edwards $13 million.

Clinton and Obama spent about equal sums. Clinton’s costs were $5.1 million, plus $1.6 million in unpaid bills. Obama spent $6.6 million, with $190,000 in debt as of the March 31 close of the first quarter.

Last-minute appeals pay

All three candidates raised the bulk of their money in March, when they issued almost frantic appeals for money to pump up their first-quarter totals.

Edwards’ numbers were particularly strong in the days after he and his wife, Elizabeth, announced that her cancer had recurred. He raised $4.8 million in itemized donations in the final week and other money in smaller increments. Much of it was donated via the Internet after the announcement.

Among other Democratic candidates, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson raised $6.2 million and had $5 million in the bank. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) raised $4 million in the first quarter and had $7.5 million in the bank, thanks to money he raised before the start of the year. Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) raised $2.1 million and had $2.8 million in the bank.

The totals for leading Republican candidates had been disclosed earlier in the weekend and on Friday. Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, raised $21 million and had almost $12 million in the bank. Former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani raised $14.8 million and had almost $12 million in the bank.

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Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) raised $13 million and had $5.2 million in the bank.

Ose, the former congressman, said Republicans were finding the war in Iraq to be a damper on fundraising. But he thinks many Republicans are sitting on their wallets before committing to one candidate. Like many, Ose is waiting to see whether former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee gets in the race.

An early campaign

The early fundraising numbers are an indication of the intensity of the 2008 campaign. For the same period four years ago, Edwards led all candidates by raising $7.4 million in the first quarter of 2003. Eight years ago, Vice President Al Gore raised $8.9 million and then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush raised $7.5 million -- numbers that would have placed them in the second tier in this campaign.

Campaign cash is always crucial, but it may be particularly so in the 2008 election. Not only has the campaign started sooner than usual, but the candidates are expected to compete earlier than ever in large states where television advertising is expensive, such as California, New York and New Jersey.

At the same time, said Stephen Weissman of the nonpartisan Campaign Finance Institute in Washington, “just because you have more money doesn’t mean you’re going to win.”

Former Sen. Phil Gramm, a Republican from Texas, and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, a Democrat, are among many past candidates who raised significant sums only to falter, sometimes even before balloting started.

“Whoever raises the most doesn’t always win,” Texas trial attorney Frederick Baron, Edwards’ finance chairman, said in a recent interview. Democratic candidates need “north of $35 million” to compete in the first four states -- Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada -- he estimated.

“The key there is an entry fee,” Baron said. “Once you get past the entry fee, I’m not convinced that raising more is enormously important.”

dan.morain@latimes.com

doug.smith@latimes.com

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Morain reported from Washington and Smith from Los Angeles. Times researcher Maloy Moore and data analyst Sandra Poindexter contributed to this report.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

The money race

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Although the first presidential primary is nine months away, the so-called money primary is in full swing. Presidential hopefuls filed first-quarter campaign finance reports showing the amounts they raised and spent, and how much they had in the bank on March 31. Amounts are in the millions.

*--* Candidate Contributions* Expenses Cash in the bank

Democrats Hillary Rodham Clinton $26.1 $5.1 $31 Barack Obama 25.7 6.6 19.2 John Edwards 14.0 3.3 10.7 Bill Richardson 6.2 1.2 5.0 Christopher J. Dodd 4.0 1.3 7.5 Joseph R. Biden Jr. 2.1 1.2 2.8

Republicans Mitt Romney** $21.0 $11.6 $11.9 Rudolph W. Giuliani 14.8 5.7 11.9 John McCain 13.0 8.4 5.2 Sam Brownback 1.3 1.1 0.8 Mike Huckabee 0.5 0.2 0.4

*--*

*Amounts reflect money raised and spent from Jan. 1 to March 31. Candidates also could transfer money from existing campaign bank accounts into their presidential accounts.

**In addition, Romney loaned his campaign $2.35 million.

Source: Federal Election Commission


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