Clinton May Hold Early Campaign Cash Lead

As several presidential hopefuls make fundraising totals public, Sen. Hillary Clinton posts a record-breaking $26 million. Her Democratic rival, Sen. Barack Obama, has not declared a total — nor have any Republicans.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning.

We got some early numbers in the race for president over the weekend. Almost a year before anybody votes, the so-called money primary is well underway. And we're going to attempt an audio demonstration of just how much some of the candidates have raised.

(Soundbite of song, "Stayin' Alive")

INSKEEP: We'll do it using this famous song.

(Soundbite of song, "Stayin' Alive")

Mr. BARRY GIBB (The Bee Gees): (Singing) Well, you can tell by the way I use my walk I'm a woman's man, no time to talk…

INSKEEP: And we'll get back to that hit song form the '70s in a moment. NPR's Peter Overby is covering the story. And Peter, what are some of the candidates telling us?

PETER OVERBY: Well, they're telling us that they have raised more money than anyone thought possible, basically; a lot of positive spin coming out on how much they've raised.

INSKEEP: When you say more than anybody thought possible, they set records here?

OVERBY: For Democrats, yeah. The first quarter of the year before the election there's generally not been a lot of money raised up to now because it's so far out. But the primaries have been moved up this time, so everybody is running essentially about three months ahead of schedule.

INSKEEP: What are they not telling us?

OVERBY: They are not telling us, obviously, the bad news. For instance, if they raised a lot of money but they don't have a lot of cash on hand. We won't find that out until probably they file their reports on April 15th.

INSKEEP: Nevertheless, we have some information. And of course you'll be coming back to us again and again as we learn more over the coming days.

OVERBY: Right.

INSKEEP: And this morning, we're going to use that song "Stayin' Alive" to illustrate how some of the Democrats are doing in relation to each other. Consider this as a kind of audio chart: For each $2 million that a Democrat has raised they're going to get one second of the song. Peter, take it away.

OVERBY: Okay. Let's start with Joe Biden. He raised $3 million.

(Soundbite of song, "Stayin' Alive")

Mr. GIBB: (Singing) Ha, ha, ha…

INSKEEP: Okay. One-point-five seconds of "Stayin Alive." Please, continue.

OVERBY: Okay. Chris Dodd, the senator from Connecticut, $4 million.

(Soundbite of song, "Stayin' Alive")

Mr. GIBB: (Singing) Ha, ha, ha, ha…

OVERBY: Up to Bill Richardson, governor of New Mexico, six million.

(Soundbite of song, "Stayin' Alive")

Mr. GIBB: (Singing) Ha, ha, ha, ha, stayin' alive…

INSKEEP: Peter, I have to note that these folks would have been among the high raisers among presidential candidates in any earlier election and yet they're only getting a few notes of this song.

OVERBY: This is true. Well, - but you have to consider this song - maybe that's all they want.

(Soundbite of laughter)

INSKEEP: Could be. Could be. But anyway…

OVERBY: Okay. But everything is on the fast track this year. So $6 million is not a breathtaking amount.

INSKEEP: Well, who has a breathtaking amount?

OVERBY: When you get into the top three - John Edwards came in at $14 million.

(Soundbite of song, "Stayin' Alive")

Mr. GIBB: (Singing) Ha, ha, ha, ha, stayin' alive, stayin' alive. Ha, ha, ha, ha…

INSKEEP: Okay, a little bit more. You can almost dance to that. What about Hillary Clinton?

OVERBY: Twenty-six million.

(Soundbite of song, "Stayin' Alive")

Mr. GIBB: (Singing) Ha, ha, ha, ha, stayin' alive, stayin' alive. Ha, ha, ha, ha, stayin' alive…

INSKEEP: Hillary Clinton there with 13 seconds for her $26 million. Has anybody come close to raising that much money this early before?

OVERBY: No, in a word. This is new territory for everybody. And the Clinton campaign was ecstatic yesterday. They were just using superlatives, you know, biggest, best, first that they could.

INSKEEP: Some people, many people will be wondering where does Barack Obama fall on this audio chart that we've constructed here.

OVERBY: And I'm one of them. He has not put out any numbers yet. The buzz is it's going to be somewhere around 20 million, which would put him between Clinton and Edwards.

INSKEEP: Anything surprised you so far?

OVERBY: Not too much. The expectations game ahead of time, everything was all over the map. So, you know, you could talk to people who thought Hillary had done spectacularly. You could talk to people who thought she'd came in below where they expected. One surprise, for me, was Bill Richardson.

INSKEEP: This is a guy who's not been taken that seriously as a leading contender but he's got millions of dollars on hand.

OVERBY: Yeah. So if he can keep going like that, there may be more to his campaign than a lot of people have expected.

INSKEEP: Has anybody on the Republican side told us where they stand?

OVERBY: Not yet. None of them have the star power that the top Democrats do. Nobody is engaged in this intense speculation of how well John McCain and Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani are going to do.

INSKEEP: Well, of course, we will hear those numbers over the coming days, which means we'll hear more from you, Peter Overby. Thanks very much.

OVERBY: Glad to be here.

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