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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Obama's Fundraising Surprises Democrats

MASON CITY, Iowa -- If money talks in U.S. presidential politics, U.S. Senator Barack Obama has 25 million reasons why skeptical Democrats should start to listen.

The $25 million in campaign contributions that the Illinois Democrat reported collecting in the first three months of this year was just $1 million less than rival Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton's record-breaking haul and was a remarkable feat for a novice in national politics.

"He was the newcomer, he was the outsider, and this shows he's a serious candidate," said Ron Parker, a Democratic strategist in Iowa, home of the country's first nominating caucuses. "It shows he can do a lot more than draw big crowds."

Fundraising by Clinton and Obama, combined with healthy donations to their party rivals, helped Democratic presidential candidates out-raise Republicans $80 million to $40 million, a surprising role reversal for the usually well-funded Republicans.

Obama backers also were cheering the fact that $23.5 million of the $25 million they raised is targeted at what is shaping up to be a competitive primary fight.

Clinton has not disclosed how much of her first-quarter contributions is available to be spent during the primary and how much must be held for general election use, should the New York senator become the Democratic nominee.

Obama said Wednesday that his fundraising reflected growing enthusiasm for his bid.

"It indicates that people are really engaged and enthusiastic, and the crowds we've been attracting, I think, are indicative of a broad base of support across the country," Obama said just before speaking to a raucous crowd of more than 2,500 at a community college.

Asked whether the financial disclosures left the fight for the Democratic nomination between Clinton and himself, Obama demurred.

"It's way too early," he said, adding: "We're proud of the fact that we were able to do this without any money from federal lobbyists or [political action committees]," referring to groups formed to raise and contribute money to candidates likely to advance their interests.

Most polls have shown Obama running second behind Clinton for their party's nomination. Former U.S. Senator John Edwards, generally considered the third top-tier Democratic candidate, posted a $14 million campaign report.

Obama's money report said 100,000 people had donated -- twice the number of contributors to Clinton's campaign.

The report generated a commotion in Iowa, which is nearly overrun this spring by presidential hopefuls seeking traction for their campaigns.

"The fact that he had twice as many contributors as Clinton is important," said Dan Courtney, of Mason City. "I think it shows he's a viable candidate."

Democratic strategist Joe Shanahan was impressed too, but only up to a point. "It's a big number," he said, "but it's April and there's plenty of time for people to stumble."