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At year's end, Romney relied on checkbook

Put in $18m; Obama gets Jan. boost

Email|Print| Text size + By Michael Levenson and Scott Helman
Globe Staff / February 1, 2008

LONG BEACH, Calif. - Mitt Romney, the multimillionaire venture capitalist and former Massachusetts governor, reported last night that he plowed $18 million of his own money into his presidential campaign during the last three months of 2007, bringing the total sum spent from his fortune to $35.4 million.

Romney donated twice as much of his own money than he raised from contributors during the fourth quarter, about $9.1 million. He had raised $54 million total as of Dec. 31.

As the pace of the campaign picked up, Romney wrote himself a check more than twice the size as he did during the third quarter. The total spending from his own deep pockets puts him just below H. Ross Perot, the billionaire businessman who spent $63.5 million on his 1992 third-party presidential campaign, and Steve Forbes, the wealthy publisher who spent $38 million on his run for the Republican nomination in 1996.

Yesterday, Romney said he will spend several million dollars more to broadcast television ads across costly markets in California and other Super Tuesday states in a bid to stop John McCain from locking up the Republican nomination.

On the Democratic side, Barack Obama's campaign said yesterday that he raised a towering $32 million for his presidential bid in January, the biggest single-month haul ever during a competitive primary and a sum allowing him to advertise heavily across the country for Super Tuesday and beyond.

Obama is now running TV spots in nearly all of the 22 states that hold Democratic primaries or caucuses on Tuesday, and his campaign announced yesterday that it will also begin airing TV and radio ads in states that vote later in February, including Washington, Nebraska, Louisiana, and Virginia.

Obama's campaign manager, David Plouffe, told reporters in a conference call that the Illinois senator drew an additional 170,000 donors last month, bringing his total number of contributors to date to 650,000.

"These resources are critical because we've been able to advertise in just about every Feb. 5 state at pretty high levels," he said.

Romney's decision to spend heavily from his own fortune - estimated at $250 million - cast a shadow over the Republican money race.

McCain reported yesterday that he raised $6.8 million in the last three months of 2007, the least of any major Republican presidential candidate except Mike Huckabee. Yet despite his anemic haul, the Arizona senator managed to win in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida to vault himself into the lead in delegates. By year's end, he had raised $37.5 million, but his campaign said he has raised $7 million more in January.

Rudy Giuliani, who dropped out Wednesday after collecting only one delegate, reported raising $14.2 million during the last three months of 2007, and $59.2 million total. He had $16.6 million in the bank at the end of the year, but probably spent it on his ill-fated campaign in Florida.

Huckabee, who is focusing his struggling campaign on Southern states voting Tuesday, reported bringing in $6.6 million during the fourth quarter, bringing his total to $9 million. He reported having only $651,000 in cash on hand as of Dec. 31.

Fred Thompson, who dropped out last month after a dismal showing in South Carolina, said he raised $8.9 million during the last three months of 2007, and a total of $21.7 million. He had $7.1 million in the bank at year's end.

The $32 million that Obama raised in January - all of it for the primary contest - matches his best three-month fund-raising period last year, during April, May, and June. Obama's take in January was also significant because his strongest fund-raising day was the day after he lost to Senator Hillary Clinton in the Jan. 8 New Hampshire primary, Plouffe said.

"We took a lot of encouragement from that, because it showed the resolve of our existing donor base, but we also added a large amount of donors on that day," he said.

Obama's campaign chose to trumpet its January figures yesterday to the media - its official January report is not due to the Federal Election Commission for another three weeks. The campaign did not release its year-end report, which it was required to file by midnight.

As of yesterday evening, Clinton's campaign had not released its January figures, but her aides sought to downplay Obama's success, saying that votes, more than checks, are what now matter most.

Clinton did report that she raised nearly $27 million during the fourth quarter of 2007, pushing her campaign total to more than $107 million. She had $38 million in the bank as of Dec. 31, according to her FEC filing.

Obama's strong fund-raising period is occurring at a crucial time in the Democratic primary race, which became a head-to-head contest between Obama and Clinton this week after former senator John Edwards of North Carolina ended his campaign. The party's primary battle, once expected to be nearly resolved after Super Tuesday, now seems increasingly likely to go on - possibly for weeks - as Clinton and Obama fight for delegates.

The 2008 campaign will surely be the most expensive in history, and a prolonged primary contest would further tax the campaigns financially.

Clinton is advertising in a dozen Super Tuesday states, and her campaign unveiled two ads yesterday - one touting her as the candidate to halt the economic "free fall," the other highlighting her plan to reinvigorate the economy and create jobs.

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