President-elect Barack Obama brought in nearly $750 million for his presidential campaign, a record amount that exceeds what all of the candidates combined collected in private donations in the previous race for the White House, according to a report filed Thursday with the Federal Election Commission.
Underscoring the success of his fund-raising, Mr. Obama reported that he had nearly $30 million in the bank as of Nov. 24, despite spending furiously at the end of his campaign.
Mr. Obama, who became the first major-party nominee to bypass public financing since the system began in the 1970s, spent more than $136 million from Oct. 16 to Nov. 24, the period covered in the report. By comparison, his Republican opponent, Senator John McCain, who was limited to the $84 million allotted to him from the Treasury under public financing, spent $26.5 million during that time, according to his latest campaign finance report. Although Mr. McCain had $4 million left over, he had $4.9 million in debt, the report said.
Mr. Obama reported taking in $104 million in contributions. Assuming most of that money came in before Election Day, Nov. 4, it appears his fund-raising stepped up significantly as the campaign drew to a close. In the first half of October, he raised just $36 million.
An exact figure is difficult to calculate because of vagaries in the way fund-raising numbers are reported. But it appears that Mr. Obama raised over $300 million for the general election alone — more than triple what Mr. McCain had at his disposal from public financing.
When Mr. Obama decided after he clinched the Democratic nomination to forgo public financing, campaign officials said they needed to raise at least twice as much as they would receive in public money, with a goal of raising three times as much, to make it worth the added time away from campaigning that he needed to devote to fund-raising.
Mr. Obama’s fund-raising total — fueled by both small donors giving incremental amounts online and large donors who were wined and dined and given the chance to mingle with him — appeared to more than validate his campaign’s gamble.
Indeed, it could very well mark the epitaph to the public financing system, which critics have long declared is badly in need of updating to stay relevant in presidential elections.
At a minimum, it sets an imposing bar for any potential Republican challenger to Mr. Obama in 2012.
“Assuming Obama runs again and his fund-raising prowess is sustained, then it will be a daunting undertaking for any opponent,” said Kenneth Gross, a campaign finance lawyer at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.
In one illustration of the scope of Mr. Obama’s fund-raising haul, all the candidates running for president in 2004, including President Bush and Senator John Kerry, the Democratic nominee, together collected less than $650 million, not counting the money received under public financing during the primary and the general elections, according to Federal Election Commission figures.
Mr. McCain collected less than $220 million for the campaign’s primary phase, compared with the more than $410 million that Mr. Obama did in that period.
In the final two months of the race, the Obama campaign spent nearly $170 million on television advertising, compared with $61 million by the McCain campaign, according to the Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks advertising spending.
Mr. McCain had hoped that money raised by the Republican National Committee, which was able to spend on his behalf under certain restrictions, could help compensate for his financial disparity with Mr. Obama. But the R.N.C. only spent another $31 million on advertising, which left Mr. McCain still facing a large deficit on television.
Obama officials said their final tally of individual contributors surpassed 3.95 million, including 547,000 new contributors in the period covered by their latest finance report.
It is unclear what Mr. Obama plans to do with the leftover money. In 2004, when Mr. Kerry reported that he had more than $14 million remaining in his account for the primaries, some Democratic officials reacted in anger and disbelief that he had not spent all of his resources. Kerry officials said they had reserved some money to pay for a recount or legal challenges.
That type of second-guessing is less likely this time because Mr. Obama won. He has several options for his remaining cash, Mr. Gross said, like transferring it to the Democratic National Committee or another party committee, or rolling it over to his 2012 re-election campaign.
What is not an option for Mr. Obama is to help Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton with paying off the debt from her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.
According to reports filed last month, Mrs. Clinton is still struggling to retire about $7.5 million, and she faces fund-raising constraints should Congress approve her as secretary of state in the Obama administration. Mr. Gross said the most the Obama campaign could transfer to her was $2,000.