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Raising $32.5 million, Obama far outpaces rivals, sets record

Times Staff Writer

Opening a significant lead in the money primary, Sen. Barack Obama raised $32.5 million in the second quarter of 2007, eclipsing Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and other rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Clinton’s aides announced earlier that she had raised $27 million in the second quarter. Her total would have set a record among Democratic presidential candidates for the same period in past campaigns but for Obama’s even more dramatic showing.

The $32.5 million amassed by Obama is more than all other Democratic candidates combined raised for the same period four years ago -- $30.8 million -- and it nearly matches what President Bush raised in the second quarter of 2003: $35 million.

In a statement Sunday, Obama said that 154,000 donors had given to his campaign in the second quarter. The freshman senator from Illinois raised $31 million solely for the primary, with the remaining $1.5 million available for use in the general election if he wins the nomination. (Clinton raised $21 million for the primary, with the remainder for a general-election campaign.)

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“Together, we have built the largest grass-roots campaign in history for this stage of a presidential race,” Obama said. His backers, he said, seek “healthcare for all, energy independence and an end to this war in Iraq.”

“That’s the kind of movement that can change the special- interest-driven politics in Washington and transform our country,” he added. “And it’s just the beginning.”

Obama and the other candidates have until July 15 to file their full campaign finance reports, detailing the exact amounts they raised in the second quarter of 2007 and identifying their donors. The quarter ended Saturday.

Top Democratic presidential candidates almost surely out-raised their Republican counterparts. GOP candidates are expected to release their summaries this week.

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Former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, generally viewed as the third leading candidate for the Democratic nomination, announced he had raised $9 million in the second quarter.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, another Democratic contender, raised $7.2 million. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) raised $3.25 million and had $6.5 million in the bank.

In an indication of the upward spiral in presidential fundraising, Edwards’ $9 million is more than any individual Democratic candidate raised in the same period four years ago, although his total dipped from the $14 million he amassed in the first three months of 2007.

Obama’s second-quarter showing follows the $25 million he raised in the first 90 days of the year. It 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.

Altogether, Obama has raised $55.7 million this year, compared with Clinton’s $53 million; her $26 million was slightly more than what he raised in the first quarter. Obama has received money from 258,000 donors, far more than any other candidate. Edwards, for one, has 100,000 donors, his campaign said.

The winner of the money primary won’t necessarily win the electoral primary. Many top fundraisers have faltered once voting begins.

“Neither top-tier candidate will be able to overwhelm through advertising,” said Los Angeles consultant Noah Mamet, a Clinton backer. “They both will have well over $100 million, so now [it] comes down to the candidates themselves, as it should be.”

Still, Obama’s showing surprised many experts. Candidates often raise less in second quarters than in the first quarter, when they gather what many call the low-hanging fruit. So does Obama’s fundraising prowess suggest Clinton’s campaign is in trouble?

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“I wouldn’t say ‘trouble,’ ” said Democratic consultant Ben Tulchin, whose firm represents Dodd. “She is still the one to beat. This is going to make her sweat even more.”

The stratospheric sums raised by Obama and Clinton in the first half of the year leading up to an election year exceed amounts raised for the same timeframe by any past presidential candidate, including Bush and Bill Clinton, husband of New York Sen. Clinton.

Experts predict that Democratic and Republican presidential candidates will raise and spend $1 billion, more than ever before, by election day.

The money is coming in bundles large and small. At the low end, campaigns are employing ever more intense Internet fundraising techniques, and generally attract donations in increments of $100 or less. At the high end, donors can give fatter checks: Federal election law permits individual donors to contribute $2,300 to a candidate per election, compared with $1,000 in past years.

Further accelerating the money race, Democrats believe they can take back the White House.

“They’re hungry to win the presidency,” said Republican consultant Ken Khachigian, a senior advisor to former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, who is expected to enter the Republican field this month. “They see it as a extraordinary opportunity.”

Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said in a memo to supporters that the campaign was 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.” California is among the states holding a primary Feb. 5.

“Our more than 258,000 donors provide us the foundation of an unprecedented volunteer army in all 50 states,” Plouffe said.

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The memo called national polls showing Obama trailing “all but meaningless,” and cited examples of past candidates who led in surveys at similar times only to be trounced once voting began.

In a reference to Clinton, “the quasi-incumbent in the race,” Plouffe said she “should lead just about every national poll from now until the Iowa caucuses,” adding: “Expect nothing different and attach no significance to it.”

In a telephone news conference, aides to Edwards also expressed confidence, predicting they would have sufficient money to compete in the early primary and caucus states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.

By winning in some early states, they said, Edwards would gain momentum to campaign in California and other large states for the Feb. 5 primaries.

“This isn’t a money race,” said Edwards advisor Joe Trippi. “It is a race to win the nomination, and that is what we intend to do.”

Edwards’ deputy campaign manager, Jonathan Prince, added: “This nomination is going to be won and lost in the early states.”

As the second quarter closed, candidates rushed to shore up their numbers, holding multiple fundraisers each day and exhorting people via e-mail to send them money.

Edwards was particularly active, building late fundraising appeals around a recent verbal jousting match between Edwards’ wife, Elizabeth, and conservative pundit Ann Coulter.

Even Bush sent out a fundraising appeal on behalf of the Republican National Committee, built around his 61st birthday: “Your secure online donation of $61 (or whatever you can afford) will help keep the RNC’s preparations for electing more Republicans in the 2007-2008 election cycle on track.”

dan.morain@latimes.com


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