- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois has collected $20 million for his presidential bid in the latest quarter, attracting 93,000 new donors and so far leading the Democratic field.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York did not release her fundraising totals yesterday, but the Democratic front-runner is expected to report having raised less money than Mr. Obama. The former first lady has amassed millions but just barely trails Mr. Obama in total money raised, in part because he has attracted 352,000 individual donors, with some giving as little as $5.

“The number of donors matters,” said former FEC Commissioner Bradley Smith, adding the Obama total is “impressive.”

“Raising a lot of money is a sign people think you are viable, and a lot of contributors is often a very good predictor of electoral success,” said Mr. Smith, a law professor and chairman of the Center for Competitive Politics. “But I’m not sure it’s enough to offset his 20-point gap in national polls behind Hillary.”

The Obama campaign did not release the cash the senator has on hand. The detailed reports for the third quarter of 2007, which ended Sunday, are not due until Oct. 15.

Mr. Obama’s third quarter included a $3 million fundraiser with talk-show mogul Oprah Winfrey, an event with mega-investor Warren Buffet and a low-dollar match program where the campaign united small donors with people who matched the amount the smaller donor could give. Of the $20 million total, more than $19 million can be spent on the Democratic primary.

Since entering the race this winter, Mr. Obama has raised nearly $75 million in primary money. He also has raised about $4 million more that can only be spent after the party convention, should he win the nod.

Mrs. Clinton, who leads all national polls, raised about $63 million through the second quarter, and her campaign told reporters last week she will raise between $17 million and $20 million in the third quarter.

Obama campaign manager David Plouffe derided those who think the “outcome of this race to be pre-ordained, and the primary process a mere formality,” and said the number of donors proves a “grass-roots movement for change will not be deterred by Washington conventional wisdom because in many ways it is built to challenge it.”

No Republican candidates officially released their donation totals for the third quarter. A campaign source with former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee, a newcomer to the Republican field, said he will report raising $8 million in the third quarter. He also raised $3.5 million in June, when he began testing the presidential waters.

Mr. Thompson will have more individual contributions than any other candidate did in the initial quarter after announcing his candidacy, the source said, and the “Law and Order” actor has raised roughly $200,000 a day since officially entering the race last month.

Mr. Smith said the figure must be “disappointing” to the Thompson campaign, given that Republican front-runners Rudolph W. Giuliani and Mitt Romney are expected to release larger fundraising totals this week.

Mr. Romney, former Massachusetts governor, had $44 million in donations through the second quarter; Mr. Giuliani, former New York mayor, reported $34 million.

Two sources familiar with Sen. John McCain’s fundraising efforts said he will pull down more than $5 million, better than his $4.5 million target. But the Arizona Republican still carries more than $2 million in debt. Mr. McCain said he is more focused on Senate business and campaign events, such as his two-week “No Surrender” tour through early primary states, than fundraising.

“That restrained us a bit, but we’re satisfied where we are and I think we’ve got the impetus to move forward,” he said.

The leading Democratic candidates maintain a wide cash advantage over the Republicans vying for their party’s nomination, though all of the totals are less than what candidates raised in previous quarters.

Former Sen. John Edwards, the North Carolina Democrat who will take public financing for the primary, said he raised $7 million this quarter. His fundraising to date of about $30 million comes from 150,000 contributors, and he has $12 million cash on hand. He announced last week he will accept federal matching funds, which will bring him another $10 million but also subject him to spending limits.

Edwards adviser Joe Trippi yesterday took a swipe at Mrs. Clinton for accepting lobbyist donations, saying that voters are tired of “corroded” Washington politics and that Mr. Edwards taking public financing shows he will take on special interests.

“Hillary Clinton does not want this primary framed on the issue of money,” he said, noting that whenever Mrs. Clinton is asked about money from special interests or the recent fundraising scandal involving Norman Hsu, she responds by saying she supports public financing. He questioned why she has not opted into the voluntary federal matching-funds system.

Clinton spokesman Phil Singer shot back: “The Edwards campaign says it opted into the public financing system out of principle. Others might come to a different conclusion.”

Sen. Christopher J. Dodd raised $1.5 million this quarter, $14 million to date and has $4 million cash on hand. Colleen Flanagan, a spokeswoman for the Connecticut Democrat, said the campaign is “where we need to be to compete and win,” and added: “No campaign can buy votes or voters in the early states.”

A source with Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s campaign said the Delaware Democrat will report he raised less than $2 million this quarter. He has raised about $8.5 million to date. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson announced over the weekend he raised $5.2 million from July through September. He has raised $18.5 million to date.

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