Fundraising diverts Obama's time

  • Article by: JOHN MCCORMICK , Chicago Tribune
  • Updated: September 21, 2008 - 11:13 PM

He and John McCain started September with similar resources, but the Democrat is bucking public subsidies.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Barack Obama campaigned from coast to coast last week -- literally -- touching down in California, Florida and points in between.

The rallies he held and local interviews he gave were important to his presidential bid, but so too were the five fundraising events he attended over four evenings in Beverly Hills, Albuquerque and the Miami area.

After deciding to opt out of the public finance system, the Democratic nominee is now spending a significant amount of campaign time raising money from wealthy donors in virtually every major city where he stops. Republican rival John McCain has stayed with public financing, freeing him from some fundraising burdens.

This evening, the Illinois senator is scheduled to attend two more fundraisers in Chicago.

The glad-handing and posing for photos with donors is needed because even Obama's powerful Internet fundraising machine cannot raise all the money he needs for what will be the most expensive presidential campaign in history.

New disclosure reports available Sunday show Obama and McCain started September with virtually identical resources, after accounts for the Democratic National Committee and Republican National Committee are factored in.

(The Democratic National Committee reported $17.7 million in the bank and Obama had $77.4 million. The Republican National Committee had $76 million in the bank, and McCain has given it $18 million of his surplus.)

Obama raised $65 million in August, a monthly record for him and presidential fundraising. That compared to $47 million for McCain.

Still, Obama will need to match or exceed his August pace if he is to meet his campaign's aggressive fundraising goal of $300 million during a five-month period that ends in October.

The need for money is fueled by Obama's extensive advertising campaign and the cost of having staff in all battleground states. In August, his campaign spent $53 million, compared with $41 million by McCain.

McCain is spending some time raising money for his party, collecting funds that will be used on his behalf this fall. But he is getting an $84 million infusion in public money because he agreed to fundraising and spending limits, as have all previous nominees -- except Obama -- since the system was created more than three decades ago.

David Axelrod, Obama's top strategist, said fundraising will continue to consume some of the candidate's time. But Axelrod said the campaign has no regrets about not going the route of public financing. "We knew that we were going to be up against the big Republican fundraising machine," he said.

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