The Early Word: $21 Million May (NYT)

When Senator Barack Obama declined public financing for the general election, he committed himself to a lot of extra fund-raising. And he’ll have to do even more of it if he wants to do better than he did in the month of May, when he brought in about $22 million, as his campaign reported last night – a somewhat unimpressive figure relative to what he has achieved in previous months, and only slightly more than Senator John McCain’s haul. Experts say Mr. Obama likely experienced a surge in donations after he took the nomination earlier this month.

Filings to the Federal Elections Commission showed Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign even deeper in debt — $22.52 million in debt to be exact. Griff Palmer, one of our campaign finance gurus, wrote us a note when her filing came in late Friday night:

The figure for May is $22.52 million, is up 15 percent from April’s total of $19.48 million.

In May, Clinton had $10.35 million in unpaid bills. She had $12.18 million in outstanding loans. (That’s all money she loaned to her campaign.)

In April, she had $9.48 million in unpaid bills and $10 million in loans.

Since last month she’s loaned her campaign another $2.2 million, a 22 percent increase. Her unpaid bills balance has gone up 9.2 percent.

Senator John McCain also took in more than $21 million in May, and when you compare combined cash on hand of the candidates and political parties, Mr. McCain and the Republicans are doing better than Mr. Obama and the Democrats, reports Dan Morain of The Los Angeles Times.

Mr. Obama is using the specter of Republican 527 groups to motivate donors, reports The Times’s John M. Broder. But the people behind some of those 527s are worried that there won’t be enough cash available to make an impact. Michael Luo of The Times profiles Floyd Brown, “who says it is his calling to tread where the campaign is unwilling to tread in finding malicious gossip on a Democratic nominee.” Think Willie Horton in 1988 – that was Mr. Brown, whose ads questioning Mr. Obama’s religion (he is a committed Christian) you might have seen, if only his operation had more money.

“It’s all about reaching a tipping point,” Mr. Brown said. “Swift Boats achieved the tipping point. I was part of a team that reached the tipping point in 1988. In 1992, we didn’t reach it. We might not this time. But that doesn’t mean we’re not going to try.”

Right now, the candidates are largely focused on how to pay for their campaigns, but Lori Montgomery of The Washington Post looks at how they’re going to pay (or not) for their policy proposals.

With Senator John McCain speaking in Canada on Friday, the topic of trade dominated the dialogue. Mr. Obama met with Democratic governors in Chicago to demonstrate unity.

Daniel Burke of the Religion News Service reports on Mr. Obama’s efforts to court the faithful, including a grassroots operation with the working title Joshua Generation, which will hold concerts and house meetings to target young Christians.

Oh, and by the way, Mr. Obama, Senator Chuck Hagel, the Republican, is open to the idea of being your vice president. Senator Jim Webb was evasive on the matter.

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