Funding Is Feast, Famine for Obama, Clinton

Sen. Hillary Clinton is spending money faster than she can raise it, while her rival for the Democratic presidential nod, Sen. Barack Obama, is raising cash faster than he can spend it. Obama has about four times more money than he can spend in the next month or two.

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The polls may be all over the map, but it is easier to count the money. In the presidential race, last month, Barack Obama raised more than twice as much as Hillary Clinton. And Republican John McCain's campaign has financial concerns of its own.

One day before the Pennsylvania primary, NPR's Peter Overby reports on what difference money could make going forward.

PETER OVERBY: Obama has outspent Clinton by about three to one in Pennsylvania. His campaign has dominated the airwaves. So in today's regular conference call with reporters, Clinton's communications director Harold Wolfson put a hard spin on the power of Obama's money.

Mr. HAROLD WOLFSON (Communications Director, Hillary Clinton Campaign): If he does not win after having outspent so dramatically, it will once again raise very serious questions among voters and superdelegates about whether or not Senator Obama can win the big swing states that any Democrat would have to win in November like Pennsylvania.

OVERBY: Obama, Clinton and Republican John McCain all filed their campaign finance reports for March yesterday, and the financial forecast is looking lopsided indeed. As previously reported, Obama raised about $42 million for the primaries, Clinton, $20 million and McCain, $15 million. Down in the details, things look tougher for Clinton and McCain. Obama's cash reserves doubled between February and March to roughly $44 million. Clinton's campaign is holding its own but barely hit the break-even point. As for McCain, he was supposed to be solidifying his funding base after he locked up the GOP nomination, but at least through March, that wasn't really happening. For instance, many of President Bush's big fundraisers are notably absent from his organization, at least so far. Duke University, political scientist, David Rohde says this has big implications for the general election.

Mr. DAVID ROHDE (Political Scientist, Duke University): Well, it appears pretty clear now, I think, that McCain is planning to go at public financing for the general, and that means that he will have $4 million to spend. It also seems very likely to me that Obama's going to pass off public financing and therefore, he can spend what he can raise. I never thought I'd hear myself say something like this, but it's possible that the Democratic presidential candidates could outspend the Republican presidential candidate two to one, maybe more?

OVERBY: If McCain does take public financing, he could still get support from the Republican National Committee. The RNC has six times as much cash on hand as the Democratic National Committee. But then, there are the independent groups on the left and the right, who set out to beat up on the opposing candidate. Here, pro-Democratic groups seemed to be better organized at least for now. Republican strategists are mapping out plans for an aggressive independent operation of their own. They don't predict they'll match the Democrats dollar for dollar, but they do think that eventually, conservative donors will rally to the cause.

Peter Overby. NPR News, Washington.

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