Campaigns Scramble for Cash as Deadline Nears

Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and Barack Obama, D-Ill., can't say enough good things about each other's fundraising.

Obama is a virtual ATM, Clinton's campaign wants the public to know. It wouldn't be at all surprising, campaign officials say, if the first-term senator brings in more cash this quarter than the former first lady.

"He's raising a lot, and it's likely he will out-raise us this quarter," Clinton campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle told the Chicago Tribune earlier this month.

Obama, meanwhile, is equally impressed by the Clinton machine -- a fundraising engine, he reminds people, that was built over the eight years the Clintons spent in the White House.

"I'm sure the Clintons can raise much more money than us," he said at a Chicago fundraiser Monday night. "We're just trying to make sure that we can raise the paltry sums that allow us to compete."

Welcome to the strange, cruel world of early campaign fundraising, where kings are made, fortunes amassed and candidacies shaped more than six months before the first primary voters cast their ballots.

Clinton and Obama might both shatter fundraising records when the books are closed on the second quarter this weekend. But none of that will matter if one or the other brings in far more.

With the second quarter coming to a close Saturday, the candidates are engaged in one last dash for cash. They're sending out e-mail pitches, organizing receptions and dinners with high-dollar donors -- and, perhaps most important, managing expectations.

By the time financial totals get filtered through the media, what a candidate raises is almost secondary to whether that matches what they were expected to raise. That makes for some fascinating public maneuvering in the final days of a quarter.

Former President Bill Clinton himself even got in on the game Tuesday, in an e-mailed fundraising pitch sent to his wife's supporters.

"The fact is, our opponents may very well out-raise us -- and we can't afford to lose momentum now," he wrote.

A quick rundown of how things are shaping up for the candidates:

Clinton and Obama could both top $30 million, but they are really are in a race against each other.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and former Democratic Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina need to show they can raise enough to hang with the big boys and girls. Anything less than $10 million this quarter would be a big disappointment, and they'd need $15 million apiece to quiet talk of their campaigns fading in the money race.

Former Republican Gov. Mitt Romney wants to repeat his first-quarter haul of $20 million -- which would put him ahead of the record-setting six-month total raised by George W. Bush at this time in the 2000 cycle. But he appears so worried about his numbers that he floated himself a loan this week.

Former Republican New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani faces his first full quarter as a presidential candidate, and he needs to show skeptics that his campaign operation is running on all cylinders. Realistically, he's got to clear $15 million.

For the second tier, the fundraising numbers are an opportunity to establish a campaign's viability. But anything more than $5 million would be a decent haul for a candidate with low name recognition.

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