RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
All the identical candidates are deep into a surge of fundraising activity building up to midnight Sunday, the end of the third quarter of this year.
Official reports on those third quarter finances are due in a couple of weeks, and they'll give the last accounting of the presidential candidates' cash flow before the first ballots are cast.
NPR's Peter Overby reports.
PETER OVERBY: It's all about gimmicks. Democrat Barack Obama has a plainspoken pitch online. Give now, and not only will someone else match it, he or she will write you a note.
(Soundbite of recorded message)
Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois; Presidential Candidate): You'll double the impact of your donations, and you'll get to know the person who matched your gift. Please be a part of this historic drive, and be a part of changing this country. Bye-bye.
OVERBY: Other Democrats go even further. Give to Hillary Clinton by September 30th, and you might get to watch her presidential debate with Bill Clinton. John Edwards will pick five donors to join him in New Orleans for a post-Katrina rebuilding project.
Republicans are doing it, too. John McCain invites three lucky donors for a ride on his bus, the Straight Talk Express. And there's this greeting for anyone who logs onto the Web site of the Romney campaign.
(Soundbite of recorded message)
Governor MITT ROMNEY (Democrat, Massachusetts; Presidential Candidate): Hi. I'm Mitt Romney, and I would like to invite you to participate in a Rally for Romney in your local community.
OVERBY: Later in the Web video, he says he hopes your local rally can come up with at least a thousand dollars by Sunday night. The top presidential campaigns are smashing all records for fundraising — $265 million so far.
Political scientist Tony Corrado tracks political money at Colby College. He says the tactics are different from just four years ago.
Dr. TONY CORRADO (Charles A. Dana Professor of Government, Colby College): For example, Howard Dean would urge supporters to try to equal the amount being raised at a Vice President Cheney fundraiser. Now what we're finding this year is all kinds of gimmicks, contests, online appeals — anything that can try to get more money in the door, and try to get individuals calling their friends and neighbors for small contributions.
OVERBY: Not that the gimmicks always work so well. Rudolph Giuliani's campaign promoted a National House Party Night this week — to raise money, of course. Two volunteers from California decided to price their party tickets at $9.11. They thought it would commemorate Giuliani's role as mayor of New York during the 9/11 attacks. Critics called it disrespectful. Giuliani called it unfortunate and moved on. But he had more bad news: The chief of his fundraising operation abruptly left, allegedly over strategy differences.
Dr. STUART ROTHENBERG (Political Analyst): This is not a good time for questions about fundraising.
OVERBY: Political analyst Stuart Rothenberg says Giuliani's staff change is hardly the biggest question among the Republican contenders. None of them is sweeping up money the way President Bush did or the way the Democrats are doing right now.
Dr. ROTHENBERG: Fred Thompson just became an official candidate, so he certainly needs to out-raise the other candidates. The question is exactly how much is he going to raise, and how much are they going to raise? The other big question is: Is John McCain going to raise cash in a way that suggests he has resuscitated his campaign?
OVERBY: A campaign that's now barely three months away from the first voting. Candidates need to have impressive tallies for their third-quarter fundraising Sunday night. They also need to have a big pile of cash on-hand for the primaries that are going to hit them like a tidal wave this winter.
Peter Overby, NPR News, Washington.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.