Democrat Barack Obama has out-raised Republican John McCain in Florida by $339,000 — and he's done it with half as many big-money ''bundlers'' kicking in at least $50,000.
Obama's edge comes from his unprecedented success at tapping a slew of small donors, as well as the erosion of the vaunted political machine that fueled the campaigns of President Bush and former Gov. Jeb Bush.
Dubbed ''Pioneers'' by the president and updated to ''Trailblazers'' by McCain, bundlers collect checks from clients, relatives and friends to get around the $4,600 limit each can give to a campaign in an election cycle. The practice is legal, though campaign watchdogs argue that it defeats the purpose of laws aimed at limiting a donor's influence.
In an effort to show transparency, both campaigns released detailed lists this week of donors who have raised more than $50,000. In Florida, Obama identified 23 bundlers; McCain has 53.
Yet their total donations since the beginning of the campaign are not that far apart. Obama raised about $8.33 million in Florida, while McCain collected about $7.99 million, according to the latest reports filed with the Federal Elections Commission.
''We're not as reliant on a few people raising large sums of money,'' said Obama's Florida finance chairman, Kirk Wagar. ``The genius of our campaign is that we have lots of people helping raise money, and a lot of those folks are raising $2,500 or $500.''
Including donations of less than $200, which do not have to be reported to the FEC, Obama has raised nearly $12 million in Florida, Wagar said.
McCain Florida finance vice-chairman Brian Ballard, who has bundled more than $500,000 in contributions, said that the campaign's take in Florida is close to $15 million since the primary, including in-kind contributions and money to the Republican National Committee on McCain's behalf.
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