CHICAGO (Reuters) - Barack Obama hauled in more than $40 million (20 million pounds) in campaign donations in March, keeping up a breakneck pace of fundraising that gives him a big advantage as rival Hillary Clinton raised only half that amount.
The tallies announced by the two campaigns on Thursday underscored the intense scramble for cash in a hard-fought Democratic presidential race that has shattered all fundraising records.
Obama and Clinton are vying to run against Republican Sen. John McCain in the November election to succeed President George W. Bush. Obama leads Clinton in the number of delegates that will determine the outcome of the Democratic race.
The $40 million raked in last month by the Illinois senator was less than the $55 million his campaign brought in during February. The February total was an all-time high for any presidential candidate during a primary and the March number, while lower, was the second highest.
“Forty-million dollars is a tremendous amount of money to raise in one month, even though it was still less than February,” said Massie Ritsch, spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics.
Clinton’s campaign raised $20 million, according to a campaign source. But the source added, “That’s our second-best fundraising month to date.”
Clinton, a New York senator, raised $35 million in February.
Obama’s prowess at raising money over the Internet, much of it from small donors, has helped account for his large campaign war chest. Clinton, who had previously relied heavily on the more traditional method of raising money through large donors, has recently stepped up Internet fundraising as well.
Both Clinton and Obama have outraised McCain, an Arizona senator whose campaign ran short of money last year before the decorated Vietnam War veteran started winning primaries. McCain raised $11.7 million in January and nearly $11 million in February.
Clinton has significantly less money available than her Democratic rival because of weaker fundraising and higher debt. Also, some of the money she has raised can only be used if she becomes the party’s nominee.
Clinton had some $10.9 million in cash left at the end of February compared with $31.6 million for Obama, according to an analysis of Federal Election Commission filings by the Washington-based Campaign Finance Institute.
The figures showed Clinton had significantly higher debts -- she owed $8.7 million, not including the $5 million she herself loaned to her campaign. Obama had about $625,000 in debt to be paid.
Obama’s campaign said the more than $40 million he raked in during March came from some 442,000 contributors, including 218,000 first-time donors. The average contribution level was $96, the campaign said.
“Senator Obama has always said that this campaign would rise or fall on the willingness of the American people to become partners in an effort to change our politics and start a new chapter in our history,” said Obama campaign manager David Plouffe. “Many of our contributors are volunteering for the campaign, making our campaign the largest grass-roots army in recent political history.”
Obama, who would be the first black president, and Clinton, who would be the first woman to win the White House, have been campaigning heavily over the last few days in Pennsylvania, which holds its voting contest on April 22. Clinton is ahead in the polls there.
(Additional reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, John Whitesides and Jeff Mason; editing by David Alexander and Eric Beech)
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