Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who holds a commanding national lead over her rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination, yesterday made a surprise announcement that she had raised $27 million in the third quarter.
Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign previously had said the New York Democrat would raise between $17 million and $20 million, an expectations-lowering figure that allowed Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois to think he’d outraised her in three straight quarters.
But the former first lady raised $22 million for the primary and $5 million for the general election in July, August and September. She reported more than 100,000 new donors; Mr. Obama said Monday he had 93,000 new third-quarter donors.
Mrs. Clinton has raised nearly $80 million to date and transferred $10 million from her Senate re-election fund. Mr. Obama still beats her in primary dollars, having raised $75 million for the nomination contest to her $62 million.
“Hillary wanted you to be the first to know that this was our best quarter yet,” campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle told supporters in an e-mail, noting the total was “substantially more than any other candidate in the race” and that supporters “showed that America is ready for change and that you are ready to make history.”
Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki responded by stressing grass-roots support and noting he does not accept money from federal lobbyists or political action committees. “More than 350,000 Americans have already signaled the kind of change they want in Washington by contributing to the Obama campaign,” she said.
The Clinton campaign drew in record new donors in the third quarter, proving the advantage of having a popular former president for a spouse.
They offered former President Bill Clinton up as a prize in two fundraising contests — with Mr. Clinton asking to “drop in” on a lunch with a winner and his wife, and another to watch a debate with three donors chosen by the campaign.
This is the first fundraising data Mrs. Clinton has released since announcing she would return donations from and collected by jailed fundraiser Norman Hsu. Hsu had donated $23,000 to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign and collected $850,000 from other donors.
By the time the candidate reports are finalized Oct. 15, the Democratic candidates combined are expected to have a nearly $90 million advantage over the Republican contenders.
Former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani did not release his fundraising figures for the quarter, but he raised $34 million in the first half of the year.
Brent Seaborn, strategy director for the New York Republican, wrote in a memo yesterday that his boss is “clearly the strongest candidate to run against Senator Clinton in the general election and is likely the only Republican candidate that can beat her in 2008.”
As Mrs. Clinton’s fundraising totals dominated the news cycle, other Republican candidates were reluctant to release their numbers.
“Nobody wants to announce they raised $10 million when Hillary Clinton collected $27 million and Barack Obama collected $20 million,” one Republican consultant said.
Another source close to Republican Mitt Romney’s campaign said yesterday the former Massachusetts governor is expected to announce a third-quarter haul of at least $10 million, bringing his total contributions to $44 million. Mr. Romney — worth an estimated $500 million — loaned his campaign $6 million, for a total of $16 million in loans so far. The Romney source did not disclose how much cash the campaign has on hand.
The other Republican candidates are expected to report raising less than Mr. Romney and Mr. Giuliani. The other Democratic candidates raised far less than Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama.