Obama Nearly Equals Clinton's Campaign Total Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama's campaign funds are nearly even with his chief rival, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Obama has reported that he raised $25 million in the first three months of this year; Clinton took in $26 million.
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Obama Nearly Equals Clinton's Campaign Total

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Obama Nearly Equals Clinton's Campaign Total

Obama Nearly Equals Clinton's Campaign Total

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.


And I'm Melissa Block.

Senator Barack Obama shook up the Democratic presidential primary race today. His campaign announced that it has raised at least $25 million. That puts Obama, who's been in national politics for barely more than two years, essentially even with Senator Hillary Clinton. Her campaign said on Sunday that it's raised $26 million.

Coming up, we'll talk with NPR's Mara Liasson about the new dynamics of the Democratic contest, but first, our campaign finance correspondent Peter Overby helps us interpret the numbers.

PETER OVERBY: And here are those numbers for Clinton and Obama. Clinton raised 26 million; Obama's campaign says at least 25 million. Clinton transferred another $10 million from her Senate campaign. Obama, who ran for Senate in 2004, doesn't have any such reserve. On the other hand, Obama may have outraised Clinton in money that can be spent in the primaries. That's because some of the candidates' totals include cash for the general election 17 months from now - money that cannot be used for the primaries.

Obama says his primary money account totals 23.5 million. Clinton hasn't given a breakdown but her fundraising for the general election has been more aggressive than his. So when that's subtracted, her fundraising for the primaries could be less than his, although she can also tap that $10 million rollover from her Senate campaign.

But here's another Obama eye-opener: he claims to have 100,000 individual donors, twice as many as Clinton declared.

Mr. LARRY BATHGATE (Fundraiser): One of the things it means is that he's a real candidate.

OVERBY: Larry Bathgate has been raising money for Republican presidential candidates since the 1980s. He's a numbers man and he sees that Clinton's average contribution is about $500, while Obama's is only half that. It's a sign that Obama has more donors that he can hit again.

Mr. BATHGATE: Two and a half years ago most people didn't know who he was. All of a sudden you got a guy that's got a 100,000 people writing a check for $250 on average, which says something.

OVERBY: Something that's important for both Democratic candidates. Clinton's campaign chair is Terry McAuliffe, a prodigious fundraiser since the 1980s, and her husband, the ex-president, just maybe the best fundraiser in Democratic Party history. Again, Larry Bathgate.

Mr. BATHGATE: The Clintons have to have a list of donors over these last better part of 20 years that probably number up into the hundreds of thousands. Juxtapose that against Senator Obama. I mean nobody knew of Senator Obama until the Democratic Convention in '04.

OVERBY: One last comparison: fundraising online. For Clinton it's $4.2 million. For a perspective, go back to the first quarter of the last presidential race and you'll see that Howard Dean dazzled people with less than a million dollars online. But again, online Obama swamps online Clinton, his 6.9 to her 4.2.

For now, online remained a small slice of the pie. Steve Wiseman, at the nonprofit Campaign Finance Institute, expects that most of the campaign dollars will still come in checks for a thousand or more.

Mr. STEVE WISEMAN (Campaign Finance Institute): At this moment choices as to who the voters will hear from next January and February and the months before are being made disproportionately by large donors.

OVERBY: One other cautionary note: a strong first quarter doesn't guarantee anything. Four years ago, John Edwards raised more than $7 million in the first quarter, but over the next three months all he could manage was 4.5. Edwards peaked early, but at this point no one knows if Obama has peaked or is still gaining.

Peter Overby, NPR News, Washington.

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