The mandatory reports, filed with the Federal Election Commission, reveal intriguing details about how the candidates are raising and spending the staggering sums pouring into the presidential race. And they offer a measuring stick to gauge the evolution of the race, since the field has shifted dramatically since the first of the year.
Overall, though, the reports suggest a disturbing trend for Republicans. Even as attention on the presidential race intensified, the party's donor base remained fractured and less inclined to give than the Democratic base.
Sens. Clinton of New York and Obama of Illinois continued their fundraising dominance in the fourth quarter of last year. Clinton brought in $26.8 million, while Obama raised $22.8 million.
Compare that to the GOP candidates, none of whom came close to matching either Democrat.
McCain, the Arizona senator who has emerged as the front-runner, raised $6.8 million, but had to take out a loan to keep his campaign afloat. Romney, the wealthy former Massachusetts governor, brought in $9 million in contributions, but loaned his campaign twice that amount. Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, raised $6.6 million. And topping the field with an impressive $19.7 million raised in the fourth quarter was Paul, the libertarian-leaning Texas congressman, though he barely registers in polls.
Taking into account the full year, Clinton and Obama in 2007 out-raised the four remaining Republicans $209 million to $128 million.
Highlighting the cash-flow disparity - and overshadowing the reports - Obama on Thursday voluntarily announced his campaign raised a staggering $32 million in the month since the close of the reporting period. That's the most ever raised in January of an election year and it indicates his campaign will be able to pay for a raft of ads as the campaigns hurtle toward the expensive showdown in 22 states on Feb. 5-Super Tuesday.
All the campaigns will be required to reveal their January hauls on Feb. 20 now that the FEC calendar is shifting to monthly reporting. That filing will provide a more real-time assessment of the campaigns' financial viabilities and answer key questions, including how much Romney, whose personal fortune is estimated to be worth as much as $250 million, has loaned to his campaign.
Romney, who's been criticized for trying to buy the election, has kept that figure close to the vest. His fourth quarter report, posted on the FEC's Web site less than one hour before Thursday's midnight deadline (near the final edition deadlines of many East Coast daily newspapers), showed that last year he invested a total of $35.4 million in his campaign. But his campaign said Thursday he'll dig deeper into his pockets to pay for advertising in some of the expensive media markets in California and other Super Tuesday states.
In the meantime, McCain volunteered that his campaign raised $7 million in the first three weeks of January. That's more than he raised in the three months covered by the report, when he languished in the middle of the pack in the polls.
Before his dramatic Jan. 8 New Hampshire primary victory resurrected his campaign, McCain kept his campaign afloat by borrowing $3 million from a line of credit he took out in November, according to his report. He ended the year with $3 million in the bank and $4.5 million in debt.
If there's a silver lining in McCain's fourth quarter numbers, it's that only $355,000 of his fourth quarter tally is for the general election. That means he can spend most of the cash he raised on his battle for the GOP nomination, then go back to donors who haven't yet contributed for the general election.
If, o the other hand, he loses the nomination, he'd be required to return donations made for the general election.
Romney's fourth quarter take didn't include any general election contributions, while Clinton's included $3.2 million.
The reports offer curious insights into campaign spending habits. In the fourth quarter, money was spent on everything from coffee (Clinton's campaign spent $628 at Starbucks) to BlackBerrys (Huckabee spent $6,467 to arm his staff with the PDAs).
In another interesting revelation, Republican presidential fundraising totals represent a nearly completely inverted version of how the field actually shook out.
After Paul - who's been unable to translate his zealous online fundraising base into a victory in any of the seven states that have voted so far - the GOP's second-leading fundraiser in the fourth quarter was Rudy Giuliani.
The former New York City mayor, who this week dropped out of the race and endorsed McCain, led national polls during much of the period covered by the reports.
His report shows he raised $14.2 million in the fourth quarter, bringing his 2007 fundraising haul to $59.2 million, not including the $2 million he transferred from another campaign account.
Giuliani finished the year with $12.8 million in the bank and $1.2 million in debt, after spending $18.3 million, including nearly $280,000 for security and rent from his own companies. That brings to more than $425,000 the total donor dollars steered by Giuliani's campaign to his companies, not including the $500 in "stipends" the campaign paid the candidate in November and December.