STEVE INSKEEP, host:
And this is a big weekend in the 2008 presidential campaign. No debates, no TV blitzes, but all the candidates had to file their first reports on fundraising and spending. Okay, they already gave us an idea of how much they've raised in the first quarter, but now we look at the documents with a lot more details and we get a more specific idea of who's actually winning what's called the money primary.
NPR's Peter Overby has been reading up and joins us once again. Peter, good morning.
PETER OVERBY: Hello.
INSKEEP: Okay, so when we got the round numbers from the campaigns in recent days, we found out that Hillary Clinton had raised a lot of money, Mitt Romney on the Republican side had raised the most money. We found out some other things. But now we're going to talk about something called cash on hand. What is it? Why is it important?
OVERBY: Right. We're going to talk about a specific kind of cash on hand. Cash on hand is the money that they have going forward: The money they've raised minus the money they've spent.
INSKEEP: So if a candidate raised $10 million, that sounds really good. But if they spent $9 million raising it, they don't have a lot of cash on hand to actually campaign with.
OVERBY: Exactly. And because of the way this campaign is working, it gets a little more subtle than that. The candidates, a lot of them were raising money for the general election as well. That's money that's not available for the primaries, so what we're talking about here is cash on hand for the primaries.
INSKEEP: So who's winning if you look at it that way, actual money to spend right now to get your party's nomination if you can?
OVERBY: On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton is winning. She's got $24 million roughly, Barack Obama has $19, John Edwards has $11. And then to go down below to the top tier, the number four candidate is Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut. He's got $7.5 million.
INSKEEP: Seven and a half million?
OVERBY: That's right. Yeah, so he's not that far behind John Edwards. But one point worth making here is that Hillary Clinton, she has $24 million. But one reason she has that is that she was able to transfer in $10 million from her Senate campaign.
INSKEEP: There's money that didn't cost anything for her to raise. She'd already raised it somewhere else.
OVERBY: Exactly. So the Obama campaign emphasizes money raised for the primary. The Clinton campaign emphasizes cash on hand available for the primary.
INSKEEP: So Hillary Clinton is still ahead but Obama is right there close to him, and a couple of other candidates have raised a fair amount. What about on the Republican side?
OVERBY: On the Republican side, Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani are essentially tied. They both have a shade under $12 million available. John McCain has five million. And again stepping down below the top tier, the number four Republican candidate, Sam Brownback of Kansas, has $800,000.
INSKEEP: I want to come back to that for a second. You said Mitt Romney has $12 million available.
OVERBY: That's right.
INSKEEP: The announcement was sometime ago that he had raised more than 23 million, so it sounds like it cost him a lot of money to raise that money.
OVERBY: That's right. He spent more money in the first quarter than anyone else. And number two right behind him was John McCain, who raised the least money of the top six.
INSKEEP: So very briefly, what does this information tells us about a candidate's strength?
OVERBY: It tells us that the candidates are trying to get big donors and small donors. For instance, Hillary Clinton claims to have 48,000 small donors, but she also has bundlers who have raised more than twice as much as all those small donors.
INSKEEP: People who are getting a whole bunch of donors together and turning it in all at once.
OVERBY: That's right.
INSKEEP: Okay. Peter, thanks very much.
OVERBY: Thank you.
INSKEEP: An update from NPR's Peter Overby.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.