The outcome of the 2008 White House election remains up in the air, but one thing is certain -- the bid to succeed President George W. Bush will be the most expensive race in history.
The cost of the last presidential campaign in 2004, considered a peak for its time, was 693 million dollars.
Common estimates of this year's total outlay have tended to come in at around one billion dollars, and Fortune magazine recently upped its overall cost projection to three billion dollars.
As a historical comparison, the campaign two decades ago that saw Republican George H.W. Bush succeed Ronald Reagan at the White House cost 59 million dollars.
Historians believe that the nation's 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, spent 100,000 dollars in his bid to take the executive office in 1860.
In the countdown to "Super Tuesday" on February 5, when 22 states including New York and California hold their primary elections, White House hopefuls are furiously bolstering their campaign war chests.
The official tally of campaign finances for 2007 will not be published until January 31 by the Federal Election Commission, but top Democratic candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have already released their numbers.
The former first lady and current New York senator's campaign said she raised a total of 115 million dollars in 2007, of which 24 million was raised during the last few months of the year.
Illinois Senator Obama has said his drive raised 103 million dollars in 2007 of which 22.5 million came in during the last part of the year.
Clinton and Obama's campaigns raked in several million dollars more -- over six million for Clinton and eight million dollars for Obama -- following the country's first nominating contests in Iowa and New Hampshire earlier this month.
The campaign for Republican candidate Rudolph Giuliani, who despite an early swell of support has been trailing in the presidential polls, has admitted to funding woes.
Giuliani said Friday his campaign has 12.7 million dollars, of which seven million is available as ready cash, and amid the cash shortage top staffers have agreed to go without their paychecks this month.
The admission by Giuliani's camp exposed the risks of his strategy, which aimed to reserve most of its energy and cash for the influential state of Florida and its January 29 primary, while rivals began spending heavily and gaining momentum in earlier nominating contests.
"It's not how much you raise, but how much you've got when you need it the most," said Dennis Johnson, associate dean of the school of political management at George Washington University.
Republican White House hopeful Mitt Romney, a wealthy Mormon businessman, has already dished out 17 million dollars of his own, and early last week he divulged that he had reached in his own pocket for more -- though he did not say how much -- to fund his campaign in the blue-collar state of Michigan.
Of all the political aspirants in this year's White House push, Romney, formerly the governor of Massachusetts, has spent the most cash on his campaign.
According to his own estimates, as of September 30, 2007, he had spent an average of 100,000 dollars per day over the first nine months of the year.
But with Romney trailing in the polls, the breakout success of Republicans Baptist preacher Mike Huckabee and Arizona Senator John McCain has shown that money is not enough to win the election.
Just six months ago, McCain's campaign was widely viewed as dead in the water amid a cash crunch, and Huckabee had raised just two million dollars by the end of September.
But McCain surged to victory in New Hampshire and Huckabee surprised the nation with a come-from-nowhere victory in the Iowa nominating caucuses.
And in a sign that success just breeds more success, Huckabee raised eight million dollars in the last three months of 2007 and two million more in the first weeks of January, just after his Iowa splash.
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