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2008 Presidential Campaign Fundraising Totals Hit New Record

The first fundraising period, from January 1 to March 31 of the 2008 U.S. presidential race, ended with a flurry of appearances, phone calls and e-mail asking for last minute campaign contributions. Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton currently leads the pack of presidential hopefuls with the most money raised – in what some say has been a record-breaking year for campaign contributions. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.

With less than a year to go before the first primary votes are cast, U.S. presidential candidates from both parties made a final fundraising push in late March. Based on the required disclosures from the individual candidates, Republican Party strategist Matthew Dowd says the results are impressive.

“There is just no historical precedent for the quantity and amount of fundraising people have done," he says.

And it appears the effort has paid off for some candidates. Senator Hillary Clinton of New York raised $26 million in just 10 weeks – nearly twice as much as Democratic Party rival John Edwards, who took in $14 million.

For Republican candidates, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani raised $15 million, but he trails former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney who declared campaign contributions of $23 million.

Michael Toner, former chairman of the Federal Election Committee, says although a lot of factors can come into play, the money race is an important indicator of voter support.

"And the difference between raising $15 million versus $20 million can be enormous in terms of public perceptions, how strong your candidacy is," Toner says.

But some experts warn against putting too much stock on the early numbers, including campaign finance reformer Fred Wertheimer.

"It's a snapshot right now. We could be in a very different place six to nine months from now," he says.

Senator John McCain was once considered the Republican to beat. But he fell short of expectations after generating what would have been a respectable sum in previous years – $12.5 million. Republican party strategist Matthew Dowd says it is about expectations.

"If you don't exceed expectations, if you go below expectations, it is a huge problem. If you exceed expectations, it is a good day," Dowd says.

Another candidate facing high expectations is Democratic Senator Barack Obama, who has yet to reveal his fundraising numbers.

Candidates have until April 15 to disclose dollar amounts. But party organizers say fundraising for the next three months is already underway.