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It's the Democrats by $25 million

Obama and the party had a lucrative June. McCain and the GOP lagged. 'It's an arms race,' one analyst says.

July 18, 2008|Dan Morain | Times Staff Writer

Barack Obama and the Democratic National Committee revved up their money machine in June, outpacing their Republican rivals by almost $25 million, the Democratic presidential candidate's campaign said Thursday.

Obama and the party have also all but caught up to Republican standard-bearer John McCain and the Republican National Committee in the amount they have available to spend.

McCain and the RNC had about $95 million in the bank at the end of June, while Obama and the DNC had about $92 million.

Reports that detail the numbers are scheduled to be released Sunday, when the campaigns must file their monthly disclosures with the Federal Election Commission.

In a preview of the full report, Obama disclosed Thursday that his fundraising increased to $52 million in June, after a down month in May when he raised $22 million. Obama nearly matched his all-time high of $55 million, which he raised in February.

By contrast, McCain raised $22 million in June, an uptick from the $21.2 million he raised in May, his campaign had reported earlier.

McCain is accepting the $84.1-million federal grant to run his general election campaign, and will rely on the Republican National Committee to raise tens or hundreds of millions more.

After initially suggesting he might take the grant, Obama rejected public financing and will be relying on private donations.

That means, unlike McCain, Obama will not be limited in how much he can spend between the convention and the November election.

The June report suggests Obama and his party will be able to raise the hundreds of millions that they plan to spend on the general election campaign.

"The sky is the limit," said political scientist Bruce Cain, head of the University of California Washington Center. "Whatever the other guy raises, you want to raise more. It's an arms race. It will be a record amount."

Since clinching the nomination, Obama has shifted his focus to emphasize views that appeal to centrist independent voters, raising speculation that he risked losing his all-important small-donor base.

But according to his campaign, Obama's average donation in June was $68. The modest amount suggests Obama's small-donor base remains enthusiastic, Cain said, adding: "That makes it an even more positive signal."

The Democratic National Committee's fortunes also improved in June, after lagging behind the Republican National Committee's for the last 18 months. Aided by joint fundraisers with Obama, the DNC had its best month since 2004.

The DNC raised $22.4 million in June, up from $4.7 million in May and nearly matching the $26 million the RNC raised. The DNC had $3.7 million in the bank at the end of May. It now has $20.3 million.

Both Obama and McCain are helping their national and state parties raise money.

By law, parties can receive individual donations up to $28,500. They also can spend unlimited sums to support the campaigns of their presidential candidates.

Obama recently announced that he had established the Committee for Change, a joint fundraising account aimed at boosting his efforts in 18 states. With the money, state Democratic parties can help him campaign by, for example, assisting with voter turnout.

Many of the 18 states are traditional battlegrounds, such as Colorado, Florida and Missouri, which could vote either Democratic or Republican. But he also is expanding his campaign to states that long have voted for Republicans, including Alaska, North Carolina and North Dakota.

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dan.morain@latimes.com

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