Presidential Campaigns Tally Q3 Fundraising

Presidential hopefuls are soon to disclose how much money they raised for the third quarter that ended Sept. 30. But the money that the campaigns had on hand may even more critical, analysts say, and the major candidates weren't rushing to say how much they had.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Hey, the end of this year's third quarter came in at midnight. And that's a deadline for presidential candidates who want to show they've got the money to compete. Within two weeks they have to disclose what they raised in the third quarter. But last night nobody was rushing to say just how much.

Here's NPR's Peter Overby.

PETER OVERBY: The fact is, by now the easy money has been swept up, and the financial frontrunners seemed to be well established: Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton among the Democrats, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in the Republican race. Obama's campaign said Sunday that they now have more than half a million donations overall. They didn't disclose any dollar amounts. And New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson announced he raised $5.2 million over the summer. He's trying to displace former Senator John Edwards as number three in the Democratic dollar contest.

Professor Tony Corrado is a long-time observer of political money. He says the total raised is becoming less important as the first primaries and caucuses come into view.

Dr. TONY CORRADO (Colby University): There's going to be real emphasis on how much cash on hand these candidates have because with so many states planning to vote in January, many of these candidates will start buying television and putting large sums of money out the door here in the late fall.

OVERBY: And television stations want cash upfront when they sell advertising time. So any headline from the third quarter reports are more likely to be negative than positive. For instance, on the Democratic side, Edwards said last week that he'll apply for public financing. Qualifying for public funds used to be a sign of strength, but not anymore. The funds come with spending caps so low they could cripple Edwards' chances.

Among the Republicans, Romney, a multimillionaire, has put increasing amounts of his own fortune into his campaign. That lets him buy more ad time, but it also gives his rivals a chance to accuse him of trying to buy the nomination.

Peter Overby, NPR News, Washington.

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