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Obama raises $25 million, challenges Clinton's front-runner status

Story Highlights

• Barack Obama campaign: 100,000 individual donors gave in first quarter of 2007
• Senator's campaign says at least $25 million raised for presidential bid
• Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign raised slightly more -- $26 million
• Obama fundraising, recent poll raise doubts on Clinton's front-runner status
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign announced Wednesday that it raised at least $25 million in the first quarter of 2007.

The total comes close to the $26 million raised by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign in the same time period and calls into question the New York Democrat's status as her party's front-runner in 2008.

The Obama for America campaign said more than 100,000 individual donors had contributed to the 2008 presidential campaign of the senator from Illinois.

"This overwhelming response, in only a few short weeks, shows the hunger for a different kind of politics in this country and a belief at the grass-roots level that Barack Obama can bring out the best in America to solve our problems," said Penny Pritzker, Obama for America's finance chair, in a news release.

Since Obama announced his presidential bid on February 10, his campaign has raised $6.9 million over the Internet from more than 50,000 donors, it said. The online fundraising is included in the $25 million total.

Dan Balz, political correspondent for The Washington Post, said: "I think the challenge for him is to figure out how to bottle up this enthusiasm and turn it into something that can sustain him for a much longer period."

The first quarter of the 2008 fundraising cycle is considered by many to be a reliable benchmark to assess a candidate's viability. The quarter closed at midnight Saturday.

Clinton also transferred an additional $10 million from her Senate war chest to post $36 million in the first quarter.

But Obama's fundraising prowess was the second blow in as many days to Clinton's aim to become the Democrats' "inevitable candidate."

A poll released Tuesday indicated Clinton's once double-digit lead in the key primary state of New Hampshire has eroded since February, while rival John Edwards has made a run toward the head of the pack. (Watch how much Clinton's lead has shrunk Video)

The CNN/WMUR presidential primary poll, conducted by the University of New Hampshire, found that Clinton was the choice of 27 percent of likely Democratic voters in the Granite State, down from 35 percent in the same poll in February. Meanwhile, Edwards, who was the choice of 16 percent in February, saw his support jump to 21 percent, vaulting him past Obama into second place. Obama had 20 percent, the poll found. (Full story)

Analyst Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia Center for Politics said the amount of money Clinton raised is a lot, but in the political battle of perceptions, it's not enough. "It's impressive, but it's not the knockout blow they had planned," Sabato said.

Some political strategists said the biggest goal of bringing in lots of early cash is to convince contributors there's really only one good bet for their party.

In 2000, Vice President Al Gore and then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush accomplished this in their campaigns, Sabato explained. "That money had an impact," he said. "It convinced the big players in their parties that if they wanted to back a winner, they'd better get behind Gore or Bush."

This time, given how many candidates are raising large amounts of money, the big players may have to hedge their bets. "This is not a coronation. This is a competitive contest for the nomination," said Thomas Mann, a political analyst at the Brookings Institution.

Sheila Krumholz, from the Center for Responsive Politics, on the record amount of money raised in the first quarter, said: "What it says is that it is highly dependent on money. You can have great skills, a good organization but if you don't have the money you don't have a campaign."

Among other Democrats, Edwards, a former U.S. senator from North Carolina, raised $14 million during the first quarter; New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson reported raising $6 million; Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut reported contributions of $4 million; and Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware has raised $1 million to $2 million in contributions.

Among Republican presidential candidates during first quarter, former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts has raised $20.63 million; former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani raised $14 million during the first quarter; Sen. John McCain of Arizona raised $12.5 million; Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas raised $1.3 million; and former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas raised $500,000.


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Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, also has raised more than $6.9 million over the Internet, his campaign said.

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