Hillary is the fundraising queen

Hillary Rodham Clinton defied the usual slow flow of summer money, tapping 100,000 new donors and outpacing all other presidential candidates in the chase for campaign cash over the past three months.

The New York senator raised $27 million in the quarter — $22 million for the primaries and $5 million for the general election — while other candidates fell victim to the traditional third-quarter dip in fundraising.

For the first time, Clinton reported attracting more new donors in a quarter than her chief fundraising rival, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama. And, for the first time, she raised more primary election money than he did.

Both candidates have now raised about $80 million each since the beginning of the year, Tuesday’s updated figures showed.

Obama still has the most donors at 352,000 and leads Clinton in primary money. He has raised nearly $75 million toward the nominating contests to her $62.6 million — a figure that does not include the $10 million she transferred from her 2006 Senate campaign.

In the rarefied fundraising space that Clinton and Obama occupy, the differences are fairly insignificant. But their money sets them apart from the rest of the Democratic field and supplies them with resources to run lengthy and expensive campaigns.

“These two candidates have exceeded all expectations,” said Stephanie Cutter, a Democratic strategist and the communications director for John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign. “It would take a significant shift in the field or a catastrophic world event to change the dynamics in this race.”

Republicans were equally impressed.

“Clinton and Obama are on track to raise in excess of $100 million this year alone — by any measure, a tremendous performance,” said Michael Toner, a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission and a legal adviser to the campaign of Republican candidate Fred Thompson.

Clinton’s fundraising has been remarkably steady from quarter to quarter, showing no dips or spikes and underscoring her methodical approach to the contest. Her third-quarter success came amid a scandal involving one of her top fundraisers, Norman Hsu, who turned out to be a fugitive from the law. As the case against Hsu mounted in early September, the Clinton campaign returned $850,000 to 260 donors whose contributions were associated with him, much of it money raised in the first and second quarters.

Obama reported raising about $20 million in the third quarter, with at least $19 million of that for the primary elections. In the previous quarter, Obama raised nearly $33 million. He reported 93,000 new donors in the summer quarter.

Former Sen. John Edwards, lumped in a cluster with Obama and Clinton in polls of voters in the first-caucus state of Iowa, raised a distant $7 million in the quarter. He has said he plans to accept public financing that could boost his overall fundraising by about $10 million. He reported having $12 million cash on hand.

The cash-on-hand figure will be a key measure of strength as the campaigns head into one of the most expensive stretches. Neither Clinton nor Obama reported how much money they had left in the bank.

“The amount of disposable money you have on hand to spend right now is critical,” Toner said. “That number is more important now than in the earlier quarters.”

Republicans’ presidential fundraising was far behind the Democrats’.

A top adviser to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said he would report contributions of nearly $10 million for the quarter, as well as a personal loan to his campaign of more than $6 million. That would bring Romney’s overall public contributions for the year to about $45 million and his personal investment in his race to at least $16 million, for total receipts of more than $60 million.

In a sign of the Romney campaign’s desire to post a big fundraising number, campaign manager Beth Myers last week asked all staffers to raise at least $1,000 before the end of the quarter. They were asked to make cold calls to potential donors.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who has kept pace with Romney’s fundraising in the past, has not disclosed his third-quarter totals. He has said his campaign income would be on a par with other Republicans.

Sen. John McCain, who appears to have stopped a political free-fall, will report raising more than $5 million during the quarter, according to Republicans familiar with his effort. McCain also reduced a debt he had at midyear but did not eliminate it, one Republican said.

One McCain adviser said the campaign had stabilized its finances, reducing its spending, which had averaged $4.5 million a month, to $1.5 million a month.

“We have made the budgetary measures that we need to take, and I’m satisfied with the fact that we’ll have enough money to do television and radio and run our campaign,” McCain said Tuesday while campaigning in Florida.

Fred Thompson, the newcomer to the GOP field, raised more than $8 million during the quarter, supplementing the $3.5 million he raised in June, according to Republicans briefed on his fundraising totals.

With their third-quarter numbers, Obama and Clinton have helped push the Democratic field into record fundraising territory for a presidential campaign.

“There’s more excitement right now on the Democratic side,” said Republican strategist Greg Mueller. “We have a two-term president who is in a war that has the country divided, and some of the Republican base has been depressed on immigration and spending.”

Mueller and other Republicans said the financial discrepancy does not necessarily translate into a Democratic edge during the general election. Mueller and Scott Reed, who managed Bob Dole’s Republican presidential campaign in 1996, predicted Republicans will get behind their nominee, especially if Clinton wins the Democratic nomination.

“It will mobilize the base of the party like it hasn’t since 1994,” Reed said.

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Associated Press writer Brendan Farrington contributed to this story from Tallahassee, Fla.

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