Obama Enters Final Stretch Leading in Cash

His fundraising has given Democrats a big cash advantage.

Oct. 21, 2008 — -- Barack Obama and John McCain headed into the home stretch of the presidential race awash in money, but Obama holds a hefty cash advantage over his Republican rival, according to financial reports.

Obama started October with $133.6 million in the bank, while McCain, who has limited himself to public funds, had $46.9 million in cash on hand, according to financial disclosure forms filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Both campaigns are aided by the Democratic and Republican national committees, which have their own war chests.

The Republican National Committee reported a $77.5 million bankroll. Combined with McCain's funds, the GOP began October with $124.4 million to spend on the election.

The Democratic National Committee started October with $27.4 million in cash on hand. Combined with Obama's funds, the Democrats started the final weeks of the campaign flush with $161 million.

When all the funds are counted up, Obama has a $37 million advantage going into the crucial final weeks of the presidential race.

Obama's fundraising prowess has been unlike anything before in presidential politics. He has now raised more money than George Bush and John Kerry combined in their 2004 campaign.

In fact, the Obama campaign, which has overall fundraising figures north of $620 million, is only about $50 million shy of the total amount of money raised by all of the presidential candidates in 2004 combined.

And he is still raising money at a record clip. In September, Obama shattered his previous record by bringing in $153 million, and Obama supporters received a fundraising appeal Monday asking for contributions to help strengthen field operations.

Obama has used his financial advantage. In September, McCain spent $44.6 million of the $84 million check he received in public funding for his general election campaign. The Obama camp spent $96.8 million in September, more than twice as much as McCain.

Obama is outspending McCain, 3½ to 1, on television advertising in swing states, and his overall amount of money on ads since the nomination period ended in June is approaching $200 million, according to recent Campaign Media Analysis Group numbers.

Obama's Average Contributor Gave $86

McCain has gotten a boost from the RNC, which has raised far more money this cycle than its Democratic counterpart. It's helped the Arizona senator split the costs on some of his television advertisements. The RNC, however, can spend no more than $19 million in coordination with the campaign, but can spend freely on issues that affect the race.

Obama's bonanza became possible because he was the first presidential candidate to forgo public financing for the general election since the system was put in place after Watergate. By not accepting public funding for his campaign, as McCain did, he is not bound by spending limits.

The Obama campaign announced Sunday that it added 632,000 new donors bringing its overall total to 3.1 million people. Most of the donors gave less than $100 for an average contribution of $86, the campaign said.

The Republicans have tried to use Obama's avalanche of money against him.

He has come under sharp criticism for abandoning a September 2007 pledge to enter the public financing system for the general election if his Republican presidential opponent did.

While Obama's use of the Internet to tap into small-dollar donors has revolutionized campaign fundraising, Republicans claim he is abusing a loophole in the campaign finance law.

Campaign donors who give less than $200 are not required to disclose their identities, raising questions as to whether some small-dollar Obama donors have given more than the $2,300 individual limit.

On Monday, McCain campaign manager Rick Davis accused Obama of violating his own personal standards of transparency by not making public his small-donor database. Republicans estimate that Obama has hundreds of million of dollars in contributions tied to people who did not have to identify themselves.

Candidates Must File One More Report Before the Election

"As he won the primary and entered into the general election, his fundraising machine continued to grow and grow. How did it grow? Who did it grow with?" Davis said.

Davis said the RNC will create and make public a searchable database of all its contributors since September.

Last week, the RNC asked the Federal Election Commission to look into the source of Obama's small-dollar contributions, alleging that the Obama camp has not been rigorous enough in making sure foreign donors are not giving to the campaign.

Published news reports show instances of the Obama campaign returning money to foreign nationals and returning contributions to some people who say they never intended to give Obama money in the first place.

Regardless of the outcome of the presidential contest this year, Obama's spectacular fundraising could spell the end of the public financing system because future candidates will be tempted by the tactical advantages of raising private funds.

The candidates must file one final overall pre-election financial update to the Federal Election Commission by midnight Thursday. That report will include figures for the first 15 days of October. For the remainder of the election, campaign finance law requires that the candidates send the commission a report on any contribution of at least $1,000 within 48 hours of receipt.

Contributions to presidential candidates this cycle exceed $1.3 billion. In all, Americans have given more than $910 million to Democratic presidential candidates and $451 million to Republicans in the two-year race for the White House.

ABC News' Arnab Datta contributed to this report