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In the money race, Obama far outpaces Clinton

Times Staff Writer

Battling to keep her presidential hopes alive, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton ended March with less than a fourth of the money that front-runner Sen. Barack Obama had in the bank for the coming contests, newly filed campaign finance statements showed.

Clinton had less than $10 million available for the remaining primary battles, including today’s vote in Pennsylvania, compared with Obama’s $42 million in primary funds.

At the same time, Clinton disclosed $10.3 million in debt, most of it owed to her cadre of political consultants, suggesting that if the campaign were to end now she would be financially underwater. Obama had $662,000 in unpaid bills.

The New York Democrat’s debt could be “a glimpse of how it all comes to a close unless she has a shockingly good victory” in today’s Pennsylvania primary, said political scientist Bruce Cain, head of the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies. “Campaigns end not because candidates make rational decisions about their prospects but rather because others who give resources make that decision for you,” Cain said.

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In this presidential campaign, the one with the most money has not always won. Sen. John McCain, the presumptive GOP nominee, still has not matched the $100-million-plus that also-ran Republican Mitt Romney spent on his failed candidacy.

“The press is covering the race not only every day but every hour of every day,” a California Democratic consultant said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he has clients who support both candidates. “That diminishes the value of money.”

Clinton strategist Howard Wolfson told reporters Monday that even though Obama had outspent Clinton, “we’ve been able to obviously get a message out.” He estimated that Obama had spent $11.2 million to Clinton’s $4.8 million in Pennsylvania.

In March, Clinton raised sums that in any other campaign would be impressive -- $20 million. But Obama amassed $41 million last month.

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Clinton partisans said her $10 million in the bank was key; television stations don’t sell airtime on credit.

In an indication of the fundraising predicament in which she finds herself, Clinton won primaries in Texas, Ohio and Rhode Island on March 4. But in the three days after those victories, Obama far outraised her -- $5 million to $2.8 million, campaign finance reports filed late Sunday showed.

Altogether, Obama’s campaign has received $234.8 million in contributions; miscellaneous receipts push his total to $240 million. Donors have given Clinton’s effort $189 million. She lent her campaign $5 million.

Both have vastly outraised McCain, who received $15.4 million in March and $80.6 million since last year. He is relying on the Republican National Committee to help fund his campaign.

Clinton ended March with $31.7 million in the bank to Obama’s $51 million. But her total includes $22 million that can be used only in the general election. Obama has raised less than $10 million for the general election.

Clinton’s debt reached $10.3 million as her bill owed to the firm co-founded by former chief strategist Mark Penn increased to $4.6 million, up from $2.5 million the previous month. Criticized last month for some of her debts, Clinton paid several overdue bills: $13,611 to Cal State Northridge; $11,122 to the UC Regents; $29,617 to the Boston Symphony; and $228,841 to Aetna for health insurance.

Independent campaigns backing Obama have outspent those supporting Clinton, $8.5 million to $5.6 million, since December, Federal Election Commission records showed.

Another $1.2 million has been spent opposing her nomination, primarily by Republican-backed groups. Groups have spent $547,000 opposing Obama.

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dan.morain@latimes.com


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