With an increasing number of states rushing to hold primaries in January and early February, candidates must be careful to build the state-by-state operations they need now while saving plenty of money for ads later. The general election is not until November 2008.
In the 2004 Democratic race, Howard Dean, then governor of Vermont, stunned his rivals by leading the field with a then-record $40 million as 2004 began, but he burned through it quickly and the donations dwindled after poor showings in the early balloting.
No spending details
On Sunday, Clinton and Edwards chose to announce only their money totals, they do not have to make detailed fundraising and spending reports public until April 15.
Clinton's campaign, which reported total receipts of $36m would not say how much of her $26m in new contributions were general election donations that she would not be allowed to use in her primary campaign. In addition to the donations, Clinton transferred $10m from her Senate campaign account.
|"Things look very good for the Hillary campaign and the Edwards campaign [but] the devil could be in the details"|
Jenny Backus, nonaligned Democratic consultant
Edwards aides said his $14m in new contributions included $1m for the general election.
Neither the Edwards nor the Clinton camps wanted to discuss how much cash they had left, making it more difficult to assess how the two campaigns stack up against each other.
Jenny Backus, a Democratic consultant not backing any specific candidate, said: "Things look very good for the Hillary campaign and the Edwards campaign [but] the devil could be in the details."
Barack Obama, a Democratic senator and 2008 presidential hopeful, has not yet divulged his first-quarter fundraising total, nor have any of the Republican candidates.
That decision illustrates that fundraising is not only about numbers, but also about managing positive - or at least trying to put off negative - media coverage.
Early fundraising can also be the easiest, as candidates tap the contributors they know best.
|Barack Obama has not declared his first-|
quarter campaign fundraising total [Reuters]
Clinton's total, helped by her Senate campaign transfer and inflated by the unknown amount for the general election, exceeds the $31m that all presidential candidates reported raising in the first three months of 2003.
Still, Backus said Clinton's numbers were "awe but not shock", and may not serve to scare away contenders in a field that already has been winnowed by fear of a need for big money.
For candidates seeking to break out of second-tier status, the first quarter could prove to be a stepping stone or a pitfall.
Bill Richardson, New Mexico's governor, showed he had enough of a support base to raise $6m and keep $5m in the bank while spending most of his time in Santa Fe during New Mexico's legislative session.
Aides say Richardson intends to devote himself more fully to fundraising in the second quarter. The question for him, then, is whether he can emerge from the also-running list and build himself into a contender in some of the states with early nominating contests.
Aides to Chris Dodd, a Democratic senator, said he raised more than $4m, transferred nearly $5m from his Senate campaign and had $7.5m in the bank.
Joe Biden, a Democratic senator, lagged behind, with his staff reporting that he had total receipts of nearly $4m, including a transfer from his Senate campaign account.