[QUOTE]WASHINGTON Hillary Rodham Clinton banked a daunting $24 million for the Democratic presidential campaign at the end of the first quarter even as rival Barack Obama outraised her in a display of fundraising prowess.

[B]Clinton, the senator from New York, raised $19 million [/B] for the primary election, [B]trailing Obama, who collected $24.8 million in donations for the primary.[/B]

Obama reported $18.2 million cash on hand for the primary, keeping him at Clinton's heels as the presidential campaign enters a more intense second quarter.

[B]The first quarter financial reports established Clinton and Obama as the undisputed money leaders of the Democratic field, a significant but not determining factor in politics.[/B] The reports also show that as a group, [B]Democratic presidential candidates outraised Republicans by a margin of eight to five.[/B]

John Edwards, the Democrat's vice presidential nominee in 2004, established himself as a likely alternative to Clinton and Obama by raising $13 million for the primary and reporting $9.8 million in the bank at the end of the quarter.

Clinton was able to boost her cash on hand with a $10 million transfer from her Senate campaign account, money left over from her easy Senate victory last year.

Both she and Obama spent similar amounts during the quarter and were thriftier than Republicans Mitt Romney and John McCain, the two biggests spenders in the presidential contest so far.

[B]Clinton reported operating expenses of $5 million and a debt of $1.6 million[/B]. [B]Obama spent $6.6 million and had $190,000 in debts[/B]. The low spending rate for both is all the more remarkable given the large amounts of money they raised.

The figures are early barometers of a candidate's fundraising base and organizational strength. So far candidates are on a record setting pace that is shattering past thresholds for fundraising and spending.

Most leading candidates from both parties plan to bypass the primary public financing system, placing a greater premium on early fundraising. For the first time since changes in campaign finance law in the 1970s, many candidates are considering bypassing public money in the general election and are raising money for that cycle as well.

On that front, Clinton leads the way, raising $6.9 million, a sum that must be kept separate and can't be touched unless she wins her party's nomination. Obama and Edwards both raised $1 million for the general election.

Clinton's money in the bank for the primary tops all candidates who have already reported to the FEC. The amount is more than twice the bank balances reported by Romney and Rudy Giuliani, who led the Republican field in cash on hand.

But Clinton's mighty campaign chest shared the spotlight with Obama's fundraising. He culled donors from the traditional centers of wealth _ California, New York and Florida, and his home state of Illinois _ but also through the Internet. Altogether he had 104,000 individual donors, the largest number of contributors for any candidate. Clinton had more than 60,000 contributors.

Edwards, a former trial lawyer and senator from North Carolina, led all other candidates in contributions from lawyers, with $4.9 million. One of firms whose employees contributed significantly to his campaign was Lerach Coughlin, one of the most feared class action law firms on Wall Street. The firm, led by William S. Lerach, has filed hundreds of high-profile lawsuits on behalf of investors.

Among other Democrats, Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., reported $6.4 million in cash on hand for the primary election. That money includes a transfer from his Senate campaign account of nearly $5 million.

Meanwhile, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson showed surprising fundraising considering a late start and a state legislative session that occupied much of his time. He reported raising $6.25 million and $5 million cash on hand.

Sen. Joe Biden ended the quarter with a balance of $2.8 million.

As often happens in a primary, many donors did not commit their money to single candidates. For instance, David Geffen, who caused a stir when he sharply criticized Hillary and Bill Clinton, held a fundraiser for Obama and donated to Edwards and Dodd. And actress Kate Capshaw Spielberg, wife of Steven Spielberg, contributed to both Clinton and Edwards.

Among Republicans who filed earlier, Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, was the fundraising leader, with $20.7 million in donations. But Giuliani, the former New York mayor, stayed even with him with cash on hand. Both have more than $10 million in the bank.

Meanwhile, McCain, the Arizona senator perceived as an early leader in the race, had half as much money in the bank as each of his two main rivals and had a $1.8 million debt.

That said, Romney is still fighting to gain name recognition. Though he spent more than $1.8 million in ads to publicize his face in key states, polls still place him in third or fourth place, sometimes trailing Republicans who aren't even in the race.

[B]Giuliani is leading in the polls, buttressed by his image for unflappability after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. But his donor base is the smallest among the leaders.[/B]

After spending more on staff than Romney or Giuliani did, [B]McCain is now cutting his payroll[/B] and is revamping his fundraising operation.[/QUOTE]

___

Associated Press Writer John Dunbar contributed to this report.


[url]http://www.huffingtonpost.com/huff-wires/20070415/campaign-money[/url]

Not the cake walk to the finals like she thought