MICHELE NORRIS, host:
This week we're delving into the campaign finance reports filed by the 2008 presidential candidates. Among the Democrats, Senator Hillary Clinton leads in the polls, but Senator Barack Obama is closing in behind her. And in the battle for campaign cash, Obama is now ahead by some important measures. NPR's Peter Overby reports.
PETER OVERBY: There are plenty of Democratic candidates to choose from, but Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are drawing most of the attention and most of the money. In terms of cash available for the primary campaign, Clinton has about $24 million, Obama about $19 million. That's nearly twice as much as candidate number three, former Senator John Edwards. But there are nuances that could make a difference down the line, most notably the number of donors: 104,000 for Obama, 60,000 for Clinton.
We asked the Center for Responsive Politics to analyze the new campaign finance data this week.
Ms. SHEILA KRUMHOLZ (Director, Center for Responsive Politics): The average donor is giving to Hillary Clinton about 1,600 and to Barack Obama about $1,200.
OVERBY: Sheila Krumholz is the center's director.
Ms. KRUMHOLZ: That's not necessarily good news for Hillary Clinton. That means that Barack Obama can return to these individuals for more money. She has, on average, individuals giving large amounts, but fewer of them.
OVERBY: Alan Solomont was a finance chair for the Democratic National Committee during the Clinton administration. Now he's raising money for Obama. He says Obama touches a nerve with voters the way few political leaders do.
Mr. ALAN SOLOMONT (Democratic National Committee): I think John Kennedy did, Robert Kennedy did, I think Bill Clinton did, and I have to say that Barack Obama certainly does.
OVERBY: Which isn't to say big fundraisers and small donors for the other Democrats are any less passionate or energetic. That includes Clinton and Edwards, also Senators Christopher Dodd and Joe Biden, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, and Congressman Dennis Kucinich. Sheila Krumholz says there's clearly a top tier.
Ms. KRUMHOLZ: We're showing a huge end-of-quarter surge for Clinton and Obama, and it looks like a smaller but significant surge for Edwards toward the end of the quarter.
OVERBY: The late surge for Edwards appears to have happened after he and his wife, Elizabeth, held a press conference to say that her breast cancer had returned.
Comparing the Democrats to the Republican candidates, the Democrats collectively are drawing in much more money, but Anthony Corrado at Colby College in Maine says spending is a different story.
Mr. ANTHONY CORRADO (Colby College): The leading Democrats are spending three times more than the leading candidates had spent at this stage of the 2004 and 2000 elections, but nonetheless they're spending about half as much as the leading Republicans.
OVERBY: The top Republican in both fundraising and spending is Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, but numbers two and three in the GOP fundraising race, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Senator John McCain, have also spent more than any of the Democrats. Again, Anthony Corrado.
Mr. CORRADO: Yeah, the fact that we began this campaign with McCain leading in the polls and Romney relatively unknown, and now Romney the fundraising leader and McCain trailing in the fundraising race shows how fundraising can catapult a candidate into the public mind.
OVERBY: And Sheila Krumholz says all of the candidates have plenty of donors who aren't even close to the $2,300 contribution limit.
Ms. KRUMHOLZ: Those donors who have given can give more, they can of course pull in other donors. The current donor base is not tapped out.
OVERBY: A good thing for the candidates and perhaps a discouraging sign for those who are still thinking of becoming candidates. Peter Overby, NPR News, Washington.