Barack Obama and John McCain enter the final days of the presidential campaign amid dwindling reserves, with Obama hindered by a sudden drop in fundraising and McCain restrained by spending limits.
Obama, the Democratic nominee, spent more than $105 million during the first two weeks of October, according to new campaign finance reports. He reported raising only $36 million for his campaign during that period, about half the fundraising pace he enjoyed in September.
The Illinois senator shattered records and dumbfounded Republicans and Democrats by raising $150 million in September. Obama could still do better in October. His more recent report showed he had taken no share from a joint Obama-Democratic Party victory fund that raised about $27 million during the same October period.
But with the election 11 days away, both Obama and McCain, the Republican nominee, are operating with diminishing funds.
Obama had nearly $66 million in the bank at the end of the two week period and debts of about $2.3 million. The Democratic National Committee and the joint victory fund reported combined cash on hand of $31 million.
McCain and the Republican National Committee reported having a combined $84 million as of last week to spend before Election Day.
The reports illustrated Obama's superior financial position going into October. He spent more than $80 million on media advertising. McCain, using his resources and the Republican National Committee's, spent a combined $38 million on ads.
McCain, who has accepted public financing for his campaign, is restricted in his spending. As of Oct. 15 he had more than $25 million in hand and more than $1 million in debts. The RNC, which has been helping his candidacy, had more than $59 million in the bank.
At McCain's spending rate of $1.5 million a day, the Arizona senator likely has only $12 million to spend in the next 11 days before the Nov. 4 election. He began the fall campaign in September with $84 million in public funds.
Obama is not participating in the public finance system, a strategy he used to advantage in September with a remarkable surge of donations. His October fundraising slowed, even though Democrats had hoped that presidential and vice presidential debates held during that period would have spurred additional giving.
Obama and his wife, Michelle, issued e-mail fundraising appeals on Thursday. The candidate warned supporters that "the margins of victory in crucial battleground states will be small."
Added his wife: "It all comes down to Friday morning when we make the last, tough choices about where we can fight - and how hard."
While the Obamas pleaded for more money, McCain and his running mate, Sarah Palin, tried to douse a furor over how their side spent theirs. The RNC came under scrutiny after the party committee reported earlier this week that it had spent about $150,000 in September on wardrobe and cosmetics after Palin joined the GOP ticket.
In an interview with the Chicago Tribune Thursday, Palin said the clothes bought for the Republican National Convention were not worth $150,000 and said most have not left her campaign plane.
"Oh, if people only knew how frugal we are," she said.
There was no evidence of additional clothing purchases in the most recent reports.
But McCain's Oct. 1-15 filing showed that the campaign paid $22,800 to Palin's traveling stylist, Amy Strozzi, an acclaimed celebrity makeup artist. In contrast, McCain's foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, was paid $12,500, the report showed.
McCain's major expense was advertising - he spent more than $19 million from Oct. 1-15 on ads. The RNC contributed an extra $10 million to help with those media buys. It also spent $8.5 million on ads on behalf of McCain that were placed independently of his campaign.
McCain still has $21 million left over from the primary elections that he cannot use in the general but can distribute to Republican Party committees. In October, he doled out $8.5 million from that account to party committees in the battleground states of Missouri, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin, Nevada, Ohio, North Carolina and Florida.
Obama contributed $14 million to Democratic committees in those states and more.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)