WASHINGTON - Barack Obama has raised more in a three-month period than any Democratic presidential contender in history, his campaign said Sunday, giving the freshman senator a symbolic boost and $32.5 million as he chases Sen. Hillary Clinton's significant early lead in national polls.
As Obama and Clinton prepared to travel to Iowa this week for days of rival campaigning, the third-place Democrat, former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina had to make do with $9 million for the second quarter of the year, which ended Saturday.
That met Edwards' announced goal but represents only a third of the $27 million Clinton's campaign estimates it will report for the same period, and compared more closely with the $7 million announced by distant fourth-place Democrat New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.
While the second-quarter reports aren't due at the Federal Election Commission for another two weeks, and it remains unclear how much cash remains unspent among the various candidates, Republican campaigns already have acknowledged that their fund-raising will lag behind that of Clinton of New York and Obama of Illinois.
That may speak to GOP voters' uncertainty about their field at this stage -- or an overall anti-war, anti-President Bush sentiment that could be tamping down enthusiasm within the party and pushing independent voters toward Democrats.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, whose $21 million in the first quarter led the Republican money race, focused more on campaigning to boost his name recognition than fund-raising during the second quarter, his campaign said, and as a result expected to announce less.
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who leads the GOP in national polls and reported about $16 million in the first quarter, had not announced a second-quarter figure yet. Neither had Arizona Sen. John McCain, one of his party's strongest Iraq war supporters, who raised less than Giuliani last quarter and whose stance for pro-immigrant legislation could cost him his early second-place position nationally.
A Romney campaign memo predicted that the second-quarter results will firmly establish two tiers of candidates within the GOP, "one that will be able to raise the funds to compete with the Democrats in the general election and one that will not."
But Romney's advisors also said "horserace" coverage oversimplifies the unusual nature of this campaign cycle.
With Bush unable to seek re-election and Vice President Dick Cheney not running, it is a wide-open and so far crowded field for Republicans.
Meanwhile, Democrats' leading candidates are a woman and an African-American.
Obama's camp was overjoyed with its second-quarter results. Besides the money - $31 million of which can be spent on the primary election contest alone - the campaign reported another record of 258,000 donors.
Campaign manager David Plouffe wrote in a memo to supporters that the fund-raising so far has greatly surpassed the Obama team's own expectations and will allow Obama to keep up with former first lady Clinton.
"Frankly, when we entered this race, we did not think that was possible," Plouffe wrote.
"We estimated at this point of the campaign we'd be at least $20 (million) -25 million behind one of our fellow candidates. But due to the amazing outpouring of support from people all across the country, remarkably, we should be on at least even financial footing for the duration of the campaign."
Edwards' deputy campaign manager Jonathan Prince on a conference call with reporters rejected questions about whether the contest for the Democratic nomination is now effectively between Clinton and Obama. He said the test still comes down to who wins Iowa - where Edwards has led early polls - and the other earliest primary states.
"They can be wrong when we get to Iowa," Prince said of anyone who has written off Edwards. "We are quite comfortable with where we are."
Steve Thomma contributed to this story