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Obama Fundraising Suggests Close Race For Party Nomination

Illinois Senator Barack Obama continues to impress political rivals and experts with his ability to raise money as part of his 2008 campaign for president. Obama led all Democrats in fundraising during the past three months, signaling a tough fight for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination with the frontrunner, Senator Hillary Clinton. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Obama raised more than $32 million in the second quarter of the year, compared to 27 million raised by the Clinton campaign. Former North Carolina Senator John Edwards finished the period with $9 million, followed by New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who raised seven million.

This year, the Obama campaign has raised $58 million, shattering previous records for fundraising in the first six months of the year before the election year.

Obama received money from 154,000 people during the past three months compared to 60,000 who donated to the Clinton campaign.

Larry Sabato directs the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.

"What is really impressive is that his money is coming in smaller donations, which means that he can go back again and again to his donors, asking them for another $50 or $100."

Obama's success in fundraising has not translated into a better position in public opinion polls.

Clinton has led the Democratic field from the beginning and solidified her lead, according to some recent surveys.

But expert Larry Sabato says the Obama fundraising performance signals a long and closely fought battle for the Democratic nomination next year.

"I think what is important is that this really destroys the hardening conventional wisdom that somehow Hillary Clinton had the Democratic nomination wrapped up. She does not. This is going to be a real race," he said.

Analysts say Obama's fundraising prowess will help him compete in the early contest states like Iowa and New Hampshire, which kick off the nomination contests for both parties next January.

Longtime Democratic strategist Bob Shrum told the C-SPAN public affairs TV network that Obama appears to be a strong position to challenge Clinton, despite her longstanding lead in the polls.

"I think if they decide at that point that Obama is serious and substantive as well as appealing, then I think he has a very, very good chance of winning the Iowa caucuses and the nomination," he noted. "So I think he is pursuing exactly the right strategy."

But Clinton supporters insist she remains the candidate to beat, citing surveys that show a majority of Democrats believe she has the edge in experience and leadership over Obama.

Terry McAuliffe is Hillary Clinton's top fundraiser.

"Ultimately, it comes down to who has got the best message, who is the best candidate, and right now Hillary Clinton is leading in 34 of the first 36 contests," McAuliffe said. " I think primarily people are watching Hillary in those debates and saying, you know, she has got the experience, the leadership skills to run this country."

The fundraising news was not encouraging for former Senator Edwards, who declined from $14 million in the first three months of this year to $9 million in the second quarter. Edwards has been running third behind Clinton and Obama in most opinion polls for sometime.