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Associated Press/Photo by Mark Lennihan (file)

Presidential price tag

Campaign 2008 | As consumers tighten their purse strings, the presidential candidates continue to spend freely, making this the most expensive campaign ever

One billion dollars.

That's how much Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain have raised collectively during the most expensive presidential campaign in history, according to numbers released this week by the Federal Elections Commission.

To put it in perspective, that's the equivalent of someone purchasing over 125 million paperback copies of McCain's autobiography Faith of My Fathers or Obama's The Audacity of Hope.

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Obama's fundraising efforts, totaling $639 million, have netted him the lion's share of that billion-dollar figure, while McCain has raised around $360 million. Third-party presidential aspirants, like independent candidate Ralph Nader, have brought in $4 million.

But let's not forget about all the other candidates who sought their respective party's nomination. They piled up significant coffers, too.

According to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks money in U.S. politics and its effect on elections and public policy, these Democrats and Republicans raised $600 million collectively in their bids for the highest office in the land. This list of candidates includes Joe Biden, Sam Brownback, Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd, John Edwards, Jim Gilmore, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Gravel, Mike Huckabee, Duncan Hunter, Alan Keyes, Dennis Kucinich, Ron Paul, Bill Richardson, Mitt Romney, Tom Tancredo, Fred Thompson, Tommy Thompson, and Tom Vilsack.

Plus, candidates like Clinton and Romney lent millions to their respective campaigns out of their own pockets.

Overall, the Center for Responsive Politics estimates that, including congressional races, this election will end up costing a whopping $5.3 billion.

In comparison, the 2004 election cost $4.2 billion, while contests in 2000 ran up a bill of $3.2 billion. At this rate, the 2012 election will cost $6.7 billion.

Who's paying? Almost all of Obama's support comes from individual donors-a record 2 million of them-while about half of McCain's coffer can be attributed to individuals.

And the two candidates haven't yet spent what they have. So far McCain has 20 percent of his money left, while Obama has 10 percent remaining.

Keep in mind that McCain accepted public financing, restricting the amount of money he could personally raise. Obama, who has raised the most money of any presidential candidate in American history, rejected public financing-which no major party candidate has done, either.

Obama has outspent McCain in television advertising in the final weeks leading up to the election, including the purchase of a half-hour during prime time on several networks Wednesday night. The spot cost his campaign an estimated $4 million and attracted 33.5 million viewers, according to Nielsen Wire, a marketing trends research agency.

Still, over the last few days, with a boost of $18 million in cash from the Republican National Committee, McCain has aired about as many ads as his opponent. While McCain is limited in his fundraising efforts, the RNC is not limited in what it can spend on his campaign. The RNC, with $59 million in cash, has an advantage over the Democratic National Committee, which has only $11 million available, according to CQ.

The McCain campaign has claimed that with all his money Obama is trying to buy the White House. The Democratic candidate's campaign has responded by saying that millions of hard-working Americans are showing their support for their candidate by their contributions.

Emily Belz
Emily Belz

Emily, who has covered everything from political infighting to pet salons for The Indianapolis Star, The Hill, and the New York Daily News, reports for WORLD from New York City. Follow Emily on Twitter @emzleb.

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