Presidential campaigns aggressively competed for dollars up to the last minute of the third quarter, eager to build their bank accounts for an expensive stretch of media advertising and voter outreach.
Candidates were poised to begin revealing their fundraising numbers Monday, leaving the details for later, when they must file financial reports with the Federal Election Commission. The first votes of the presidential contest are scheduled to be cast in January.
A key number at this stage is how much cash the campaigns have on hand. They may raise a lot, or they may raise a little, but what they have in the bank to spend in the months ahead matters most.
Other key features to look for among Republicans:
_How much money did former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a multimillionaire, lend his campaign in this past quarter? He gave his campaign nearly $9 million in the first six months of the year and has said he dipped into his own pocket again this quarter.
_After a dismal second quarter, has Sen. John McCain turned the corner and stabilized his fundraising?
_Did former Sen. Fred Thompson, a television and movie actor, parlay the popular support he enjoyed before becoming a candidate into real dollars? His numbers will be slightly inflated because they will also include money raised in June, while he was still exploring whether to run. The rest of the campaigns will report July-September figures.
_Can former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani maintain the pace he set in the second quarter as the Republican best able to raise money from individual donors?
Key points for Democrats:
_Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton will once again lead the pack in fundraising. Who comes in first has become something of a Washington parlor game, but Obama’s campaign reported Sunday that it had surpassed 350,000 donors, an impressive feat at this stage of a campaign.
_Will former Sen. John Edwards remain on track to meet his goal of raising $40 million by the end of the year? Last week he announced he would accept public financing of his campaign during the primaries, a move that would give him an infusion of several million dollars but would also limit his spending to about $50 million during the entire primary season.
_New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson announced Sunday that he had raised $5.2 million in the quarter. Will that move him closer to Edwards and establish him as a fourth-place contender?
_Will Sens. Joe Biden and Christopher Dodd raise enough to keep them in the hunt? Dodd closely trailed Richardson in the first six months, thanks in part to his transfer of $4.7 million from his Senate campaign account. But Richardson has had better luck in public opinion polls. A poll in Iowa by Newsweek showed him behind Clinton, Obama and Edwards, but he was the only other candidate in double digits, with 10 percent support.