Politics & Government

Can anything slow Obama's fundraising juggernaut?

WASHINGTON — Barack Obama raised $52 million in June, a sum that far outpaced the fundraising of Republican rival John McCain and promised a wideranging Democratic campaign that will reach into states that previous Democratic candidates had considered unwinnable.

Obama's campaign said it had finished its latest record-smashing fundraising month with $72 million in cash on hand. The Democratic National Committee, which spends almost all of its money in support of the party's presidential candidate, announced separately that it had raised $22.4 million in June, and ended the month with $20.3 million in cash on hand.

That gives Obama and the Democrats a combined $92 million in cash, as of June 30, just slightly below the $95 million that McCain and the Republican National Committee reported they had on hand at the end of June.

And with Obama's raising more cash than McCain and the Republicans combined — McCain reported last week that he'd rasied $22 million in June and the Republicans, $26 million — it seemed likely that the cash gap could soon begin to widen in the Democrats' favor.

Obama already has raised more money than any previous presidential candidate — about $328 million to date, far surpassing President Bush's record of more than $269 million in 2004 and suggesting that he could reach a half-billion dollars this fall.

Obama recently made a controversial decision to become the first presidential candidate to forgo public financing — $84.1 million this year — for the general election campaign.

Obama's cash gusher creates new opportunities, said Lawrence Jacobs, the director of the University of Minnesota's Center for the Study of Politics and Governance.

With $70 million to $80 million in financing, most past presidential campaigns have been forced to focus their campaigns on fewer than a dozen so-called swing states. But such strictures won't affect Obama.

"You look at the map now," Jacobs said, "and it looks like there are 20 to 30 states in play. He's setting up operations in lots of states that you usually haven't seen them in, some of the Southern states and places like Indiana where . . . Democrats haven't won in decades."

Obama's June performance, during a relative lull in the campaign, was even more impressive because only $2 million to $4 million of the donations were designated for the general election — an indication that that money came from donors who'd already given the $2,300 maximum for the primary election season, which ends in early September.

That means that the rest of the money came from people who still have not reached the legal limit and can be asked for more money, and can then be asked again once the general election campaign begins in earnest.

"He's not mortal," Jacobs quipped. "He's a fundraising god. It's like biblical in scale."

While Democrats traditionally criticized "big money Republicans," Jacobs said, "the reality is that it's a liberal Democrat who's just taken a stick of dynamite to our campaign finance framework."

McCain has said he'll limit his campaign to public financing in the fall. But that means McCain must spend whatever money he has on hand before the general election season begins. Obama, however, can use his leftover primary money for the general election, since he's taking no public money, said Robert Biersack, a spokesman for the Federal Election Commission.

Related stories from McClatchy DC