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The Two Candidates With The Strongest Finances


And now to the latest campaign fundraising numbers. The deadline passed at midnight for the presidential candidates to report how much money they've raised and spent over the past three months. NPR's Peter Overby has been watching the presidential money race, and he's with us now. Peter, what do these disclosures tell us about the Republican primary race?

PETER OVERBY, BYLINE: They tell us that two of the candidates are pulling away from the others - at least financially. I'm not talking about poll numbers here; I'm talking about dollars. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney raised $14 million in the quarter. Texas Governor Rick Perry raised $17 million, and they finished the quarter each of them with about $15 million cash on hand. The $15 million is significantly more than anybody else in the Republican primaries. It's important because you've got the early primary states now coming over the horizon pretty quickly - at the end of the year, roughly speaking. And now is when they've got to start pouring money into those states.

CORNISH: And, of course, they're not the only ones in this fight. You had all kinds of candidates pulling ahead in the polls in the last couple months. At one point, Michele Bachmann was showing strength in August. And now Herman Cain is running really strongly. What about them?

OVERBY: Not so much. Bachmann won the Iowa straw poll in August. She was never able to capitalize on that in terms of her fundraising. Herman Cain says that he's having a lot more fundraising success now than he had been. It's not reflected in the reports that were just filed. He shows that he had taken in $2.8 million. That puts him behind everybody in the Republican primaries except for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Senator Rick Santorum.

CORNISH: Of course, this is the last three months of fundraising and his rise is sort of just coming up now so maybe we'll see a difference in the next couple of months?

OVERBY: It could be.

CORNISH: So, Peter, help us put this in context. Tell us what President Obama's fundraising numbers have been. How do they compare to all this?

OVERBY: He's in a different class of fundraising. This is the power of the incumbency here. He raised $42 million for his campaign and another $27 million for the Democratic National Committee. The rules on fundraising for the national committee are different. It's easier to raise money because the contribution limits are higher. But the upshot is he's sitting on $61 million in his campaign - not counting the DNC money - $61 million in his campaign, cash on hand. That compares to $15 million for Mitt Romney or Rick Perry, who both have to go through a primary process before they get to the general election.

CORNISH: Do we know anything about his small donors? People made a big deal out of that kind of fundraising for the president in the last election.

OVERBY: Yeah, there's constant speculation and analysis of this going on. We don't know. You know, there is a question whether those millions of small donors that he had four years ago are going to come back. So far, his campaign says they have 983,000 donors, which is a lot. It's an impressive number in presidential politics but it's way less than what he finished 2008 with.

CORNISH: So, what does this all mean?

OVERBY: Well, it means that this campaign is going to be well-financed, possibly not as well-financed as four years ago, but it also means, because the rules of campaign finance have changed that we're not getting the full picture here. Each of the major candidates is going to benefit from a super PAC, a more or less independent organization that is going to be supporting the candidate and can do it with unlimited contributions from rich people, from unions and from corporations. So, super PACs don't disclose what they're going between June 30th, which was three months ago, and about the end of the year.

CORNISH: So, it's a big question mark.

OVERBY: Yeah, a big black hole in the campaign finance disclosure picture.

CORNISH: NPR's Peter Overby in our Washington studios. Peter, thank you for coming in.

OVERBY: Thanks for having me.


CORNISH: You're listening to NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.