Pure Horserace: Crucial Quarter Nears End

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This weekend marks the beginning of the end for the second fundraising quarter of 2007, which wraps up June 30. As was the case when the first quarter neared its end in March, buzz and expectations are starting to build. But this time around, there is far more at stake.

The first quarter is reserved for low-hanging fruit, for getting money out of friends and familiar businesspeople and lobbyists. Many of the donors were waiting for months to donate to their preferred candidate, and did so as soon as possible. The second quarter is far different: This is a test not of buzz, but of organization, effort and networking.

Who will pass the test this time around? The expectations game, so far, is not playing out well for the two Johns in the race, Edwards and McCain. Edwards' campaign appears to be setting its bar rather low, asking supporters in a recent e-mail to help it reach $9 million raised by the quarter's end. If he meets that total, it would be $5 million less than last quarter and would only equal what Edwards pulled in during the second quarter of 2003, when he was far less known and had a smaller organization.

Even though Edwards adviser Joe Trippi dismissed the money expectations game as a "meaningless fundraising arms race," it would be hard to view a $9 million quarter as anything but a disappointment. Edwards still leads in Iowa, but if he wants to remain in the top tier, he needs to show his campaign, like those of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, is more than a one-state show, and that takes a lot of money.

Negative buzz has also surrounded John McCain's bid, who is also suffering in national early-state polls. The Atlantic Monthly's Marc Ambinder, who has crafted fundraising estimates for all the major candidates, expects the Arizona senator to report a second quarter take of $13 million-$15 million. That would be a notch above the $12.5 million he raised last quarter, but would still likely place him behind Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney.

Romney faces high expectations going into the quarter's end. He raised more than any other Republican in the first quarter, $23 million. The question facing him is whether he can build off the relatively easy money he got from the business and Mormon communities at the start of his campaign. Given his rise to the top of polls in New Hampshire and Iowa, he has a good argument to make to wavering donors.

But the top race-within-the-race is between Obama and Clinton. Obama fell just shy of the Democratic front-runner last time, but there's been a growing expectation he'll surpass Clinton this quarter. Ambinder says he could beat the New York senator by as much as $9 million. Clinton's political fortunes have been rising lately — the word "inevitable" is being tossed around again by some pundits — but a comfortable Obama win in the money race could bring that to a halt.

Perhaps all the candidates sweating this out are envious of one man: Fred Thompson. The actor and former senator has all but entered the race for the GOP nod and is able to raise money, but, presuming he formally enters the race in July, is under no obligation to report how much he's raised until the third quarter ends Sept. 30. He can't just sit back and relax though: Watching how much his GOP rivals pull in will let him know what he'll have to do to make an impressive fall showing. — David Miller

Mr. Clean: Barack Obama put his talk about a new kind of politics into action on Thursday by revealing all the "earmark" requests — those sometimes-sneaky requests for federal cash that are slipped into larger legislation — he has made this year. Today, Obama unveiled new ethics rules he says would be in place in his administration.

Those coming to work for the executive branch would be barred from working on matter relating to their former employers for two years, and anyone leaving the administration would be banned from lobbying as long as Obama remains in the White House. The Illinois senator also pledged to end what he called the "abuse" of "no-bid" contracts and institute a total gift ban applying to lobbyists.

Obama sought to tie the reforms to President Theodore Roosevelt's fight against the corruption and spoils system that characterized the "Gilded Age." It's not the first time his campaign has looked to compare itself to the past. Obama's calls to transcend politics brings about comparisons to the Kennedys of the 1960s, and he announced his candidacy at the same Springfield, Ill., location where Abraham Lincoln delivered his "House Divided" address. It's effective symbolism for his particular campaign. — Vaughn Ververs

Pull Over: Mitt Romney's campaign appears to be running into a little case of road rage these days. Campaign aide Jay Garrity is the subject of two separate investigations resulting from incidents involving drivers who have crossed his path, according to a report in the Boston Globe.

Last week, a New York Times correspondent told about his recent run-in with some campaign operatives. The reporter, Mark Liebovich, wrote that while following the campaign caravan from stop-to-stop in New Hampshire, the cars pulled over to the shoulder of the road where he was told to "veer off," meaning to stop following the candidate. Liebovich said one operative said "we ran your license plate number." The Globe reports that operative was later identified as Garrity.

The Romney campaign denies running the license and says the exchange came after the caravan became lost and had to stop. According to the AP, the state's attorney general is looking into the report. Now, the Globe reports Massachusetts police are also looking into an allegation that Garrity impersonated an officer when he called a service company and threatened to issue a citation to one of the company's drivers for speeding and erratic driving. The campaign says Garrity was not working for them at that time. Three years ago, Garrity was cited for having police equipment in his car without a permit, according to the story.

Sounds like what the Vatican had in mind when they issued its Ten Commandments for drivers this week. — Vaughn Ververs

You Can Call Me Chris? Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama may the get the most celebrity endorsements, but Chris Dodd has his own entertainment heavyweight supporter — Paul Simon. The singer/songwriter will join Dodd in Iowa for two days early next month as part of a weeklong bus tour across the state. Dodd's Iowa spokesperson, Taylor West, told The Associated Press, "Simon and Dodd have been close friends for many years, and Simon has been a longtime Dodd supporter."

Considering all the press Clinton received this week with the unveiling of her new campaign theme song, maybe Dodd can get one of his own from his longtime friend. "Fifty Ways To Win The White House?" — Vaughn Ververs

Bloom Or Bust? That's the question posed to veteran Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio by CBS News' Brian Goldsmith. Fabrizio says New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, should he enter the race, faces challenges both logistical and political. He also discusses the approaching clash between Republicans Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson for the party's conservative base. Does either have the upper hand? Find out in this week's edition of Political Players.

Editor's Note: Pure Horserace is a daily update of political news as interpreted by the political observers at CBSNews.com. Click here to sign up for the e-mail version.

By David Miller and Vaughn Ververs