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Obama breaks fundraising records

Mike Dorning and John Mccormick Chicago Tribune

WASHINGTON – Presidential candidate Barack Obama on Sunday reported raising a formidable $32.5 million during the past three months, breaking records for a Democratic candidate and demonstrating surging financial strength.

The Illinois senator’s fundraising total placed him well ahead of his rivals in securing donor support and building cash for what is expected to be an extremely costly nominating season.

Of Obama’s total, $31 million can be used for the primary campaign, half again as much as the $21 million reported by Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York. Including primary and general election funds, her campaign said it raised “in the range” of $27 million during the quarter.

That means Obama has outraised Clinton both during this most recent quarter and for the first six months of 2007.

The second quarter ended at midnight Saturday, amid a barrage of appeals from the campaigns for last-minute contributions. The candidates must file detailed disclosures by July 15 but are free to release figures earlier, something none of the major Republican candidates did Sunday.

While money is just one ingredient in a campaign, Obama’s fundraising pace puts his candidacy on a course to match and possibly exceed the resources available to a former first lady who came to the campaign with broad ties to the Democratic establishment and a ready-made donor base.

Still, despite the celebrity media coverage Obama has received since he arrived on the national stage in 2004, he is a much less familiar figure to most voters than is Clinton. And the advertising that campaigns traditionally use to introduce voters to a candidate can be expensive.

Obama began advertising last week, with two television commercials in Iowa introducing his biography to voters. Clinton, who leads in national polls, has not yet begun advertising.

The Obama campaign stressed the breadth of its fundraising support, reporting that more than 154,000 new donors had given during the April-June period for a total donor database of 258,000. The Clinton campaign had about 60,000 donors in the first quarter, but did not release a total for the last three months.

Obama’s fundraising receipts were the largest quarterly total ever for a Democratic candidate during an off-election year. President Bush, who raised $35.1 million as an incumbent president during the April-June quarter of 2003, is the only candidate who has exceeded the total.

The $32.5 million Obama reported was a substantial increase from the $25.7 million he raised during the first quarter.

Clinton’s estimate of approximately $27 million indicated slower growth from the $26 million she reported during the earlier quarter.

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