CHICAGO -- There is no other way to put it: not only did Sen. Barack Obama set a record for single quarter donations by a Democratic candidate, but his fundraising total -- $31M from 154,000 new donors -- imposes an obligaton on all of us who cover the race: we need to figure out why the "national" frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, isn't generating as much excitement as her chief competitor.

A whole tranche of the political press has been verging on pronouncing the active phase of Obama's campaign dead -- and re-asserting Sen. Clinton's "inevitable" claim on the nomination. But the evidence belies those assertions.

A quarter of a million Democratic donors are hungry for something different, and they've invested direclty in Barack Obama. Yes -- Obama's supporters tend to be a bit more upscale that Clinton's base -- but the breadth of his support can't really be explained away by an appeal to political demography.

Kudos, incidentally, to the campaign high command for keeping this number under wraps. As of a week ago, I was convinced that Hillary Clinton would raise more primary funds than Obama, partially because I misread the signals emanating from the Obama campaign and partially because I bought the very spin I've condemned above.

** = I'm estimating that Clinton would up raising about $20M in primary funds, btw. That's based on an estimated ratio of primary to general donations. The ratio, I am told, is about the same as the first quarter for Clinton.

It'll be a while before we learn how much cash both campaigns are carrying, how much they raised off the internet, what the gender breakdown of donors are, how much was raised in the last week, etc.

A side note: Ex-Sen. John Edwards hit his $9M goal; Gov. Bill Richardson raised an impressive $7M.

On to the Republicans...

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