Candidates raise big dollars during August

Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama raised $66 million in August, a record for a presidential candidate that illustrated his continuing appeal to donors and his robust outreach to new contributors.

The campaign said it raised the money with the help of more than a half million, first-time donors. By comparison, Republican presidential nominee John McCain raised $47 million in August, a personal best for his campaign.

Obama's totals underscore the challenge he faces in the remaining two months of the campaign. McCain, for now, has a significant advantage because he has accepted $84 million in taxpayer funds under a public financing system that Obama chose to bypass in favor of raising more money.

The combined efforts of the two campaigns and the two national parties left both candidates on nearly equal financial footing with about $94 million at the end of August, according to campaign and party officials.

McCain's campaign reported raising $10 million in the final days in August, a surge the campaign attributed to his selecting Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.