Hillary Clinton's financial troubles returned to the forefront of the Democrats' White House marathon yesterday as Barack Obama reported raising $40 million last month - double what the New York senator collected.
The New York senator's $20 million take would be staggering in any other race. But she faces a rival who has shattered fundraising records, and this latest benchmark highlights Clinton's broader difficulties in catching up to Senator Obama of Illinois in the protracted fight for the Democratic presidential nomination.
She has reported millions in debts and unpaid bills. Drawing mainly on earnings from her best-seller, Living History, she has lent her campaign $5 million to keep it from going broke. She cannot come close to matching Obama in spending on TV ads and mailers in contests over the next two months in eight more states, along with Guam and Puerto Rico.
Clinton, who wrapped up a 24-hour California fundraising jaunt yesterday with stops in San Francisco, Pasadena and Beverly Hills, faces further strains in meeting day-to-day expenses.
"It's stunningly expensive," said Jim Jordan, who ran Sen. John Kerry's presidential campaign for part of the 2004 primary season. "It's hundreds of thousands of dollars a day."
For all that, Clinton's lag in fundraising is unlikely to drive her from the race, analysts say. But it is making her tough climb to the nomination that much tougher.
For starters, it can deter potential donors from giving her money by creating the impression that her campaign is a lost cause.
It also bolsters Obama's argument to superdelegates - the party and elected officials likely to settle the nomination - that he would raise more than Clinton would for the general-election battle against Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the Republican nominee-in-waiting.
"One of the things we consider is electability, and fundraising has a lot to do with electability," said Edward Espinoza, an undecided Long Beach, Calif., superdelegate. "It's sad, but it's true. I think both of these candidates have proven they can raise enormous sums of cash."
So far, Obama has swept in $230 Million to Clinton's $190 million.
McCain, who faces a dismal fundraising climate for Republicans, has had far less success. While he has not yet reported numbers for March, he had raised $60 million by the end of February.
By some measures, Clinton's $190 million understates her trouble keeping up with Obama. It includes the $5 million personal loan and $10 million shifted from her Senate campaign. Also inflating her total, she has made it a practice to raise money - upward of $22 million - that she can spend only if she wins the nomination.
Clinton has also returned $850,000 to donors whose money was gathered by Norman Hsu, a financier who faces federal fraud charges.
From the start, Clinton has relied more than Obama on big-money donors, who gave the $2,300 maximum and are legally barred from contributing more. As a result, her pool of donors has steadily shrunk.
The $40 million that Obama raised last month came from 442,000 donors, 218,000 of whom were new contributors, according to the campaign. Their average donation was $96.
Michael Finnegan and Dan Morain write for the Los Angeles Times.