WASHINGTON -- Campaign officials with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York announced yesterday that she has raised $26 million for her presidential run and added $10 million from the coffers of her Senate campaign, for an unprecedented $36 million.
Although the numbers are historic for a candidate of either party, they fell short of the sky-high expectations that had developed for Clinton, a former first lady with a huge fundraising base in New York. She has employed her husband, former President Bill Clinton, to help her seek donations across the country.
In addition, Sen. Barack Obama, an Illinois Democrat and a relative newcomer to the national political scene, is expected to report that he has raised more than $20 million for his presidential bid during the same period, the first quarter of this year, according to three sources in and around his campaign.
Aides to former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina said yesterday that he has raised more than $14 million for his campaign, doubling his first-quarter total from four years ago as he geared up to run for president in 2004.
The large amounts of money collected this year are unlikely to fundamentally alter the pecking order for the 2008 Democratic nomination contest. But national fundraisers said they have never before seen such intensity so early in a campaign.
"I'm just astonished at that much money in the Democratic primary," said Donna Brazile, former campaign manager for Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign. "We might be looking at a good $60 million for the Democrats in the first quarter."
The ability to raise substantial sums at the start of the year is often considered the first true challenge for each of the campaigns. That test is even more important now that voters are likely to choose a nominee early in 2008 with a new schedule of primaries Feb. 5.
"We are ecstatic about where we are today," said Terry McAuliffe, Clinton's campaign chairman and the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
McAuliffe noted that, historically, "insurgent" candidates have managed to raise significant amounts of money against more established frontrunners, pointing to Bill Bradley's run against Vice President Al Gore in 2000 and Howard Dean's use of the Internet to raise money in 2004 against Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry.
Political professionals say it is possible that Obama might exceed Clinton's take for the primary season when contributions are sorted by use for the primary or the general election. That would be a blow to Clinton, who had hoped to force her Democratic opponents out of the race with an overwhelming campaign treasury.
Jill Zuckman writes for the Chicago Tribune.