In U.S. election news, Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama solidified their lead in campaign fundraising this month while Republican John McCain continues to face turmoil within his own ranks. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has the latest on the 2008 presidential campaign from Washington.

The latest fundraising figures gave a boost to both Clinton and Obama, who are running first and second in public-opinion polls among the Democratic contenders.

Both campaigns have more than $30 million to spend on next year's presidential caucuses and primaries. That process begins with the Iowa caucuses in mid January.

The Democratic presidential contenders raised about $80 million from April through June, compared to $50 million raised by the Republican candidates.

Historically, Republicans raise more money than Democrats and some experts believe the disparity this year reflects unease among Republicans about their party's election chances next year.

"No one thinks that Republicans are suddenly poor. So it is clear that these donors and activists are dissatisfied with the current field," said Mike Allen, of the politics Website The Politico dot com. "They are either going to stay out for the whole election or they [are] waiting for someone new, probably Fred Thompson."

Thompson, a former Republican U.S. Senator and television actor, is expected to join the campaign within the next few months. The Republican field of contenders is now down to nine following the withdrawal of former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore, who barely registered in the polls and in fundraising.

Political analyst Stuart Rothenberg says Fred Thompson's expected entrance into the race would make him an instant contender for the Republican Party's presidential nomination.

"If he does, when he does, he would become the third top-tier candidate, frankly replacing John McCain who has faded to second-tier status," he said. "So you would have Fred Thompson, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and former New York City Major Rudy Giuliani as the big three."

John McCain's top communications aides and several other staffers quit the campaign Monday, continuing a string of defections that began following a shakeup of top campaign staff last week. McCain told voters in the early primary state of New Hampshire that he will remain in the race despite the turmoil within his campaign.

On the Democratic side, former North Carolina Senator John Edwards is trying to re-energize his campaign with an eight-state campaign tour that will highlight poverty in America.

Edwards began his tour in New Orleans, which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and where residents complain that the Bush administration has done little to rebuild those areas damaged in the storm.

Edwards is running third among Democrats in most public-opinion polls, but continues to do well in the early contest state of Iowa.

"So the Democratic race is a kind of two person race now, with Edwards hanging on [to third place], hoping to pull off a surprise in Iowa to really resuscitate the campaign," added Stuart Rothenberg, Washington-based analyst .

New Hampshire hosts the first presidential primary a week after Iowa, and a new Associated Press poll in New Hampshire found Hillary Clinton leading the Democratic field over Barack Obama and John Edwards, while Mitt Romney was the top Republican, ahead of Rudy Giuliani and John McCain.

Polls this early before an election year are notoriously unreliable. But campaigns often factor in poll results when shaping their political strategies and appeals to voters.