CHICAGO - MR Barack Obama hauled in more than US$40 million (S$55 million) in campaign donations in March, keeping up a breakneck pace of fundraising that gives him a big advantage as rival Hillary Clinton raised only half that amount.
The tallies announced by the two campaigns on Thursday underscored the intense scramble for cash in a hard-fought Democratic presidential race that has shattered all fundraising records.
Mr Obama and Mrs Clinton are vying to run against Republican Senator John McCain in the November election to succeed President George W. Bush. Mr Obama leads Mrs Clinton in the number of delegates that will determine the outcome of the Democratic race.
The US$40 million raked in last month by the Illinois senator was less than the US$55 million his campaign brought in during February. The February total was an all-time high for any presidential candidate during a primary and the March number, while lower, was the second highest.
'Forty-million dollars is a tremendous amount of money to raise in one month, even though it was still less than February,' said Mr Massie Ritsch, spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics.
Mrs Clinton's campaign raised US$20 million, according to a campaign source. But the source added: 'That's our second-best fundraising month to date.' Mrs Clinton, a New York senator, raised US$35 million in February.
Mr Obama's prowess at raising money over the Internet, much of it from small donors, has helped account for his large campaign war chest. Mrs Clinton, who had previously relied heavily on the more traditional method of raising money through large donors, has recently stepped up Internet fundraising as well.
Both Mrs Clinton and Mr Obama have outraised Mr McCain, an Arizona senator whose campaign ran short of money last year before the decorated Vietnam War veteran started winning primaries. Mr McCain raised US$11.7 million in January and nearly US$11 million in February.
Mrs Clinton has significantly less money available than her Democratic rival because of weaker fundraising and higher debt.
Also, some of the money she has raised can only be used if she becomes the party's nominee.
Mrs Clinton had some US$10.9 million in cash left at the end of February compared with US$31.6 million for Mr Obama, according to an analysis of Federal Election Commission filings by the Washington-based Campaign Finance Institute.
The figures showed Mrs Clinton had significantly higher debts - she owed US$8.7 million, not including the US$5 million she herself loaned to her campaign. Mr Obama had about US$625,000 in debt to be paid.
Mr Obama's campaign said the more than US$40 million he raked in during March came from some 442,000 contributors, including 218,000 first-time donors. The average contribution level was US$96, the campaign said.
'Senator Obama has always said that this campaign would rise or fall on the willingness of the American people to become partners in an effort to change our politics and start a new chapter in our history,' said Obama campaign manager David Plouffe.
'Many of our contributors are volunteering for the campaign, making our campaign the largest grass-roots army in recent political history.'
Mr Obama, who would be the first black president, and Mrs Clinton, who would be the first woman to win the White House, have been campaigning heavily over the last few days in Pennsylvania, which holds its voting contest on April 22. Mrs Clinton is ahead in the polls there. -- REUTERS
[Comment: They are raising US$20m - US$40m a *month* to campaign for a job that
pays US$200,000 a year. They would have ended up spending about US$200m or more each for the whole campaign. Sponsors, especially large donors obviously want something back for their donation. That makes the whole scene smell of corruption. Maybe not outright, but definitely pork barrel politics and influence peddling. Also Obama support comes from the internet donors which are many many small donors. So in a sense, because these are the small donors who individually cannot influence him, he would be less influenced by large donors. Obama may well be the more democratically selected candidate.]