Romney's Biggest Donor: Himself

(AP) One tapped his bounty of fans; the other his bounty of fortune.

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama raised a staggering $32 million in January from an ever increasing donor base, aides said Thursday. Republican Mitt Romney dipped into his personal fortune to give his presidential campaign $35 million in 2007, including $18 million in the last three months of the year alone.

Obama's $1 million-a-day rate is the largest haul ever by a presidential candidate during a competitive primary. The outpouring of money will permit Obama to boost staff and extend advertising to states beyond the sweeping Feb. 5 contests, aides said. In an e-mail to supporters Thursday evening, Obama's campaign said it had attracted 224,000 new donors in January for a total of more than 700,000 overall.

Romney reported raising $9 million in contributions and spending $33.8 million during the last three months of 2007. He did not release any fundraising numbers for January, when seven Republican contests were held, but reported $2.4 million cash on hand going into a month in which he spent heavily on advertising.

Campaign aides said he was ready to embark on an aggressive strategy to confront rival John McCain with television ads in California and other Feb. 5 states. The decision signaled that Romney might be prepared to dip into his wealth again.

Thursday was the deadline for campaigns to file their end-of-year finance reports with the Federal Election Commission, numbers that were fairly dated given the hyperactive month of January with its slew of early contests and heavy spending.

Obama is now advertising in 20 of the 22 states in play for next week's Super Tuesday and plans to begin advertising in seven more states with primaries or caucuses later in February. Rival Hillary Rodham Clinton is advertising in 12 Super Tuesday states, including her home state of New York.

Obama and Clinton have been aggressive fundraisers; each raised more than $100 million last year.

Clinton's end-of-year finance report showed she raised $26.5 million in individual contributions during the last three months of the year. She spent $39.2 million during the period and had $37.9 million left as the year began. Clinton reported an end-of-year debt of nearly $5 million. Her total contributions for the year were $107 million, including $19.5 million for the general election. She spent $80.3 million in 2007.

Obama reported raising $22.8 million from October through December. He spent nearly $41 million during that period and ended the year with $18.6 million in the bank. He had a $792,681 debt. His contributions for the year totaled $102 million, and he spent $84.5 million.

With John Edwards out of the race, Clinton and Obama are in a fierce race for delegates to secure the nomination. Feb. 5 offers the biggest single opportunity for delegates, but it is impossible for either one to seal the nomination that day.

"We think that the strength of our financial position and the number of donors does speak to financial sustainability if it ends up going through March and April," Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said of the race. "We think we will have the financial resources to conduct vigorous campaigns in the states to come."

While the Clinton campaign has not released its January totals, Obama's fundraising for the month was expected to eclipse hers. Obama aides indicated the $32 million figure could grow once the month's fundraising is totaled.

"Once people start voting that's a more important measure of performance," said Clinton spokesman Jay Carson. As for money, "That's one measure of a campaign."

"It's one of the most important markers in the period before actual voters start voting. We're no longer in the invisible primary, we're in the real primary."

The Republican contest features far less money.

Without his personal $35 million, Romney raised $54 million in contributions in 2007 and spent $87.6 million. The former venture capitalist is worth up to $250 million.

McCain raised $37.5 million for the year and spent $39.1 million. Boosted to front-runner status after winning the Florida primary this week, McCain raised $7 million during the first three weeks of January. Advisers said his fundraising had surged since his Florida victory and since his endorsement Wednesday by Rudy Giuliani as he exited the race.

Giuliani, who dropped out of the GOP race Wednesday, raised nearly $60 million last year, according to his end-of-year report. He raised $14.2 million in the last quarter and had $12.8 million in the bank going into January. He reported a debt of nearly $1.2 million.

Republican Mike Huckabee, who had canceled his press plane last week in a money saving measure, resumed the flight this week. His campaign also planned to place television ads in Southern states in play Feb. 5, including Alabama, Georgia and his home state of Arkansas. It also planned to advertise in Missouri, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

According to his end-of-year FEC filing, Huckabee had his best quarter during the last three months of 2007 as his campaign began to gain traction, particularly in Iowa. He raised $6.6 million from October through December and had $1.9 million in the bank at year's end.

The former Arkansas governor's victory in the Iowa caucuses Jan. 3 did not translate into a wave of money. Since the South Carolina primary on Jan. 19, however, the campaign has raised more than $3 million online and $1 million at fundraisers.

Dark horse Republican Ron Paul had raised $4 million in January, according to his Web site. He caused a sensation at the end of last year with several major online fundraising days. He raised a total of $19.5 million during the final three months of the year, a sharp increase from the $5.2 million he raised during the previous quarter.

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