WASHINGTON (CNN) -- With a Saturday night deadline for second-quarter fundraising fast approaching, presidential candidates from both major parties are scrambling to rake in the cash before the clock runs out.
Sen. John McCain hopes to improve campaign financing during the second quarter.
The amount of cash a candidate can raise is crucial to the campaigns. Though the first votes of the 2008 campaign won't be cast until January, early fundraising, along with national and state polling, is a major indicator of candidate performance.
Among the most closely watched contenders this time is Sen. John McCain, who placed third among GOP hopefuls in the first quarter.
McCain, the senator from Arizona who's mounting his second presidential bid, blamed himself for collecting a mere $12.5 million in the first three months of 2007.
Earlier this month he sounded an optimistic note.
"We're doing better in fundraising this period, and we'll be reporting some improvement," he said during a June 11 appearance in California.
But Thursday, McCain warned that his second-quarter numbers may not be much better than his first-quarter results. McCain told reporters on Capitol Hill that "it's always been difficult for me to raise money."
McCain, though, shot down rumors that he would drop out of the race for the White House if his fundraising numbers were low.
"Why in the world would I do that? I mean that's just crazy," McCain fired back.
Campaigns try to low-ball numbers
Mitt Romney fundraised Friday in Washington and Iowa.
The former Massachusetts governor, who topped his Republican rivals with nearly $21 million in the first quarter, tried to talk down expectations for the current term at a fundraiser in Boston on Monday and said he would contribute money to his campaign from his personal assets -- estimated to top $190 million.
"It would be nice not to have to loan or contribute to your campaign," he said. "But the reality is, if you want to have a strong campaign that gets out there and can talk across the nation, you're going to have to do what's necessary."
Romney also had a prediction for the second quarter. "I would expect this quarter you'll see Mayor Giuliani as the largest fundraiser," Romney told reporters.
But the Giuliani campaign is keeping any predictions to itself. The former New York mayor came in second to Romney in the first round this year.
"The candidates and their campaigns are trying to lower their own projections, at the same time elevating the expectations of their opponents. It's a classic campaign tactic," said CNN political editor Mark Preston.
Battle between Clinton, Obama
On the Democratic side, the rivalry to watch is between Sen. Hillary Clinton, the front-runner in the early polls, and Sen. Barack Obama, who beat the former first lady in fundraising during the first quarter.
Clinton raised $19 million from contributors in the first three months of the year, compared with $24.8 million for Obama. But with $7 million earmarked for a possible general-election race and another $10 million transferred from her Senate campaign chest, the New York senator topped her Illinois rival by about $11 million.
Monday night Clinton attended a Wall Street fundraiser. The event, which included an appearance by billionaire financier Warren Buffet, raised an estimated $1 million.
While Buffet has not endorsed Clinton, he praised her, as he has Obama and New York Major Michael Bloomberg, who denies he's interested in making an independent run for the presidency.
The Clinton campaign said Thursday it will bring in $27 million in the second quarter. But the Clinton campaign said it expects Obama to raise more.
Obama's people aren't showing their cards when it comes to money, but they said more than a quarter-million people have contributed to the campaign so far this year.
"That's an astounding number," said Preston, who added "right now Clinton is leading in most polls, but Obama deserves a lot of credit for amassing such a huge donor list."
Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards was fundraising Friday in Texas. The 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee has said he doesn't expect to match the $13 million he raked in last quarter. His campaign is aiming for $9 million this quarter. But Edwards is continuing to raise funds off his wife's on-air clash earlier this week with conservative commentator Ann Coulter.
Nipping at Edwards' heels is Bill Richardson. The New Mexico governor raised $6.2 million in the first quarter. Friday his campaign told CNN's Preston that it expects to raise $7 million this time around. E-mail to a friend