And the winners are ...Barack Obama and Ron Paul.

During the last three months of 2007, the senator from Illinois and the U.S. House member from Texas outraised their rivals in the Minnesota presidential money race.

Figures released Friday by the Federal Election Commission show that Obama, a Democrat, and Paul, a Republican, raised more money from people with a Minnesota address than any of their rivals for their parties' presidential nominations.

Obama's haul, $252,647, isn't particularly surprising because he has been a record-breaking fundraiser since entering the race a year ago. He edged New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, another prodigious fundraiser, who accumulated $225,636 in the fourth quarter. Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, who has abandoned his presidential bid, was far behind, raising $84,696.

On the Republican side, Paul's total, $111,745, outstripped the amounts accumulated by John McCain, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, all of whom have consistently run far ahead of him in polls.

Paradoxically, Paul's success isn't surprising, because it's in line with his improbable fundraising strength nationwide, with his libertarian appeal combined with a savvy use of the Internet to be a powerful money magnet.

Campaign contributions are often used as a proxy for the strength of candidates' support. By that measure, the Democrats are in a stronger position than the Republicans, as they consistently have been nationwide for months.

Democratic presidential candidates raised more than $1.6 million in Minnesota last year, compared with the $1.1 million raised by their GOP counterparts.

Among the Republicans, during the last three months of the year, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani (who dropped out of the race last week) ranked second in Minnesota, with $87,185. Arizona Sen. John McCain, the party's current front-runner, was close behind, raising $83,232.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, currently running second in national polls, finished behind former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Notably, the $36,338 raised by Huckabee was six times the amount he had raised in the first half of 2007 and coincided with his candidacy's surge.

Minnesota contributions for the entire year show that Clinton edged Obama on the Democratic side, while McCain and Giuliani were far ahead of the Republican pack. • 612-673-7184 • 612-673-7192