Candidates nearly even in campaign funds

For all Barack Obama's remarkable fundraising and sizable surplus, the Democratic presidential nominee entered the final two months of the presidential contest on virtually equal financial footing as Republican rival John McCain.

According to finance reports filed in the past two days with the Federal Election Commission, Obama and the Democratic National Committee ended August with $95 million in the bank. McCain and the Republican National Committee ended with about $94 million.

The parties are crucial players in the general election, coordinating some activities with the candidates while also spending independently to help them. Both sides also distributed money to state party committees to assist in the race.

Obama is bypassing the public financing system for presidential contests. McCain has decided to accept $84 million in public financing – and the spending limitations that go with it.

But both men have chosen distinct money paths that seem suited to their circumstances.

The Democratic National Committee has $17.7 million in the bank and Obama has $77.4 million. The Republicans present a mirror image. The Republican National Committee has $76 million in the bank, and McCain has given it $18 million of his surplus.

Obama has been the money leader of the presidential campaign. Overall, he has raised more than $450 million to McCain's $210 million. Despite the advantage, Obama didn't shake Hillary Rodham Clinton until the final primary in June, and his race with McCain remains close.

Insofar as money matters in this race, Obama can't afford to stay even with McCain.

McCain is using every advantage provided to him by law to maximize his money. He is relying on running mate Sarah Palin to help raise money for the party. He is running hybrid ads with the RNC, stretching his spending limits by having the party pay for half the cost of the television spots.

In August, Obama had the upper hand, according to FEC documents.

Obama raised $65 million during the month and McCain raised $47 million – personal bests for both. McCain received a special boost of more than $9 million in the three days after he announced his selection of Alaska Gov. Palin as his running mate on Aug. 29.

Obama outspent McCain $53.5 million to $41 million – a joint spending rate of $3 million a day. More than half of that was spent on advertising.