- The Washington Times - Monday, September 22, 2008

For all of Sen. Barack Obama’s remarkable fundraising and sizable surplus, the Democratic presidential nominee entered the final two months of the presidential contest on virtually equal financial footing as Republican rival Sen. John McCain.

According to finance reports filed in the past two days with the Federal Election Commission, Mr. Obama and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) ended August with $95 million in the bank. Mr. McCain and the Republican National Committee (RNC) ended with about $94 million.

The parties are crucial players in the general election, coordinating some activities with the candidates while also spending independently to help them. Both sides also distributed money to state party committees to assist in the race.

Mr. Obama is bypassing the public financing system for presidential contests. That burdens him with the continuing need to raise money. Mr. McCain has decided to accept $84 million in public financing - and the spending limitations that go with it.

But both men have chosen distinct money paths that seem suited to their circumstances.

The DNC has $17.7 million in the bank and Mr. Obama has $77.4 million. The Republicans present a mirror image. The RNC has $76 million in the bank and Mr. McCain has given it $18 million of his surplus.

And Mr. McCain now has $84 million for the next two months, without exerting any effort.

Mr. Obama has been the money leader of the presidential campaign. Overall, he has raised more than $450 million to Mr. McCain’s $210 million. Despite the advantage, Mr. Obama didn’t shake Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton until the final primary in June, and his race with Mr. McCain remains practically a dead heat.

Insofar as money matters in this race, Mr. Obama can’t afford to stay even with Mr. McCain.

Mr. McCain is using every advantage provided to him by law to maximize his money. He is relying on running mate Gov. Sarah Palin, a popular draw in Republican circles, to help raise money for the party. He is running hybrid ads with the RNC, stretching his spending limits by having the party pay for half the cost of the television spots.

In August, Mr. Obama had the upper hand, according to FEC documents.

Mr. Obama raised $65 million during the month, and Mr. McCain raised $47 million - personal bests for both. Mr. McCain received a special boost of more than $9 million in the three days after he announced his selection of Mrs. Palin as his running mate on Aug. 29.

Mr. McCain’s biggest donor states were California and Texas, with contributors in each donating about $3.3 million. He received about $33,000 from employees of Merrill Lynch & Co., one of venerable Wall Street firms caught up in the financial crisis. Bank of America Corp. bought Merrill Lynch at a fire-sale price to save it from bankruptcy.

Mr. Obama’s biggest donor states were California with nearly $5.3 million and New York with $2.7 million. Mr. Obama fared well with employees of Microsoft, about $62,000, and IBM, about $54,000.

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