Obama Leads in Election Fundraising

As the presidential candidates release the figures on fundraising for the second quarter of the year, Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) has apparently raised more money (and has far more donors) than any other contender.

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DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:

The race for the White House has also sorts of milestones, and we passed one of them at midnight last night. The second quarter of 2007 officially ended, and now the campaigns are tallying up how much money they've raised and spent. NPR correspondent Peter Overby keeps track of the campaign cash, and he's here with us now. Hello, Peter.

PETER OVERBY: Hi, Debbie.

ELLIOTT: This is the second time this year that the campaigns have had to add up their finances for public disclosure. What's new since three months ago?

OVERBY: Well, the big headline is this. On the Democratic side, Barack Obama has outraised Hillary Clinton. He raised $31 million or so in the past quarter. He raised about 27 million. And if you look at the big picture of presidential politics, both of them are ahead of any other presidential candidate in history at this point except for George W. Bush. Now, on the Republican side, the headline seems to be that Rudolph Giuliani could knock off Mitt Romney as the top fund raiser.

ELLIOTT: Well, let's start with the Democrats. Over the winter, Clinton had raised a few million dollars more than Obama. Now, you're saying he's raised a few million more than her.

OVERBY: That's right.

ELLIOTT: What does that mean? What do we make of that?

OVERBY: Well, we can make spin of it, for one thing, which is what the campaigns are doing. Last week, the Clinton campaign sent out a memo with the $27 million figure and then said that Obama was likely - can significantly outraise them, key word: significantly.

ELLIOTT: So trying to raise the expectations for the opponent there.

OVERBY: Exactly. And the Obama campaign danced around that by immediately starting to talk about the number of donors they had. Today, they announced they had 257,000 donors. That's more than a quarter of million people. By comparison, a strong candidate in past elections would have maybe 60,000 or 80,000 at this point.

ELLIOTT: So significantly more. I guess that raises the question of what's more important, dollars or donors?

OVERBY: In the long run - and this campaign truly is a long run - probably donors are more important. Both of these candidates have enough money to do what they need to do. The difference is that Clinton has been getting more big dollar donors, who are going to max out sooner. She won't be able to go back to them as often. Obama seems to be getting people who are giving small amounts, and when you have people like that, you can keep going back and asking for a little bit more, and it's a great foundation of support over the long haul.

ELLIOTT: Peter, what's the picture on the Republican side?

OVERBY: The picture on the Republican side is a little bit bleak. You have John McCain trying to lower expectations for his campaign, which already had low expectations. He's telling people, well, you know, I don't like to raise money. Romney's campaign astonished everyone in the first quarter with the amount of money in the race. This time, they're lowering expectations, and Romney has already written his own campaign another check for presumably a few million dollars. He hasn't said how much, but he'll have to say in a couple of weeks. And we're waiting also to hear from Giuliani, who seems to be taking up momentum as a fundraiser, but we haven't seen that yet.

ELLIOTT: When will we have an idea of what the actual figures are? The books closed at midnight, but when will we know the details?

OVERBY: That's right. At midnight Saturday, the candidates had to stop collecting money for the second quarter, and the accountants had to start tallying it up and preparing the reports for the Federal Election Commission. Those reports are due midnight two weeks from now.

ELLIOTT: NPR's Peter Overby, thank you.

OVERBY: You're welcome.

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