McCain’s multi-million dollar assault

Republican White House pick John McCain set the stage for an advertising blitz against Democrat Barack Obama by raking in a monthly fundraising record of 27 million dollars in July, aides said Friday.

McCain’s total was however expected to be dwarfed by Obama’s monthly fundraising figure, which has yet to be released, but could exceed the stunning 52-million-dollar bonanza he piled up in June.

Obama is also celebrating after recruiting the two millionth donor to his campaign, evidence of an unprecedented grassroots movement that his team hopes will help carry him to victory in November.

McCain’s campaign manager Rick Davis promised a "very active" effort in the next three weeks, a pivotal stage in the race, as both candidates pick vice presidential nominees and star at party nominating conventions.

"Our fundraising continues to be very healthy," Davis said, adding that McCain had now attracted 600,000 donors, and could count on more than a million others who had contributed to the Republican Party.

McCain, who had 21 million dollars of cash on hand at the beginning of August, must empty his campaign accounts to accept government financing of 84 million dollars following his party convention in the first week of September.

That means he will likely intensify his advertising spending in key battleground states before he is subject to the spending limits which go along with public financing.

"We will have a very good August as far as expenditures go," Davis said on a conference call with reporters, as McCain and Obama fought an 11-million-dollar advertising duel sandwiched between television broadcasts of the Olympic Games in China.

Davis said the campaign would have a total of 100 million dollars to spend in September, October, and the first three days of November prior to the election, including other Republican Party accounts.

Obama caused a political storm earlier this year by going back on an undertaking to accept public funding, giving him an advantage in the frenzied final weeks of the campaign, as he will be able to raise as much money as he wants to buy vital television ads.

The Illinois senator has yet to announce how much money he raised in July, but is expected to outpace his rival, after stuffing 52 million dollars into his war chest in June, compared to McCain’s 22 million.

The Obama campaign marked another fundraising milestone on Friday, with a graphic of fireworks on the senator’s website welcoming the two millionth donor to his campaign.

McCain released his fundraising totals with Obama set to throw himself back into the fray on Saturday, following a week-long holiday in his native Hawaii.

McCain’s total fundraising for the 2008 primary and general election has now hit more than 170 million dollars, but is still far short of the 340 million dollars stacked up by Obama, through June.

Campaign fundraising is a vital component of the modern US election machine, allowing candidates to roll out huge advertising blitzes, finance cross-country swings and build up huge staffs.

It is also a key barometer of a candidate’s political viability, and McCain’s total in July suggests that though he can not match Obama’s fundraising juggernaut, he can at least be competitive.

The 2008 presidential campaign is already the most cash-soaked in history. The combined fundraising take of all the candidates has surpassed a billion dollars, according to calculations based on campaign findings to the Federal Election Commission and the fundraising site