Politics & Government

McCain, GOP best Obama and Dems in May fundraising

WASHINGTON — John McCain and the Republican Party won a fundraising round from Democratic rival Barack Obama and his record-setting money machine in May, together raising a total of $45 million, some $20 million more than the Democrats.

But Obama, by raising $21.9 million, shattered the presidential fundraising record for the primary election season. In his first report to the Federal Election Commission since his precedent-setting decision to spurn public funding for the fall campaign, Obama disclosed that he collected $287.5 million since entering the race last year.

President Bush held the previous primary-season record, raising $269.6 million en route to reelection in 2004.

The Republican National Committee, which brought in $24 million in May, far out-distanced the Democratic National Committee's $4.7 million. With McCain's $21.5 million, the GOP gained an overall edge for the month. The party committees devote nearly all of their funds to support their presidential candidates.

McCain has raised a total of $112 million so far and can raise and spend money until the primary season officially ends with the GOP convention in September. Because he agreed to accept public financing of the general election, McCain will be limited to $84.1 million in federal money during the roughly two-month campaign.

Obama spokesman Bill Burton said that the GOP edge was ``no surprise,'' asserting that McCain's acceptance of donations from lobbyists and political action committees gives him an advantage that only can be overcome ``with the help of our grassroots supporters.''

But Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political scientist, said he expects Obama's fund raising power to be stunning.

``With the kind of (fundraising) lists that Obama's got, the sky's the limit,'' he said, pointing to Obama's massive donations via the Internet in recent months. ``The small donor potential is just enormous.''

He said that Obama made the right decision strategically by opting for private financing, but criticized the presumptive Democratic nominee's reversal on a pledge to take public funding.

``Flip flopping is the icing on that rancid cake,'' Sabato said.

As one measure of Obama's fundraising strength, his campaign raised $136.4 million in the first three months of 2008, compared with $63.7 million garnered by Democratic nominee John Kerry in 2004.

``That's amazing,'' Sabato said, `` considering the fact that when Kerry became the nominee early in February, Democrats rallied around him strongly. The desire to beat Bush was intense.''

He said the GOP's edge for the month lets Republican ``take heart,'' but that given polls showing Obama with a mounting lead, McCain will ``need every penny.''