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Candidates Anxiously Await Third-Quarter Fundraising Numbers

Fred Thompson's fundraising in his first go-round as a declared presidential candidate could offer some surprisingly strong numbers as the entire field of 2008 candidates gets down to counting up their booties in the third-quarter money chase.

FOX News has learned that Thompson, the former Tennessee senator, will report having raised in excess of $8 million dollars in this quarter of the fiscal year. That's in addition to $3.5 million he raised in June.

According to Thompson aides, the campaign raised $200,000 a day since "announcing" his candidacy after Labor Day. Thompson had more than 70,000 donors, which far outpaces most candidates in both fields in their first quarters as candidates.

As recently as last week, Thompson aides were aggressively downplaying expectations predicting they would raise barely more than $5 million. Those same aides are now eager to report having topped their lowball targets.

Thompson did not officially join the band of Republicans seeking the White House until after Labor Day, but the numbers game still plays an important role in determining his and other candidates' viability in the 2008 presidential race.

Other candidates have banked significantly more than Thompson in their first quarter fundraising. Thompson's performance is better than expected but not the flood of cash Thompson aides predicted all summer would arrive this fall.

Midnight Monday is the end of September and the end of the third-quarter fundraising deadline for all the 2008 presidential hopefuls. New money totals give an expanded picture of where the candidates stand and whether they are in trouble.

On the GOP side, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was expected to again lead the pack with about $15 million this quarter, helped by a few more million dollars out of his personal fortune. Republican frontrunner Rudy Giuliani's take was expected to run about $10 million

As for Arizona Sen. John McCain, he was hoping for a boost after a slow second quarter marked by staffing changes and a pro-war message that wasn't resonating. His favorability numbers had improved since positive news this summer about the surge in Iraq, but McCain still tried to cast his campaign as one independent of the dollar race.

"I think we're doing well. We had made some very severe budgetary cuts so that we have sufficient money to carry on the campaign. But the important thing is my campaigns have never been run on money, they've been running on campaigning and the town hall meetings that we're doing here in New Hampshire and Iowa and South Carolina, and I am very pleased at the way things are going," McCain told FOX News.

On the Democratic side, Bill Richardson's presidential campaign was the first to reveal its third quarter numbers -- more than $5 million during the last three months. That brings the total for the New Mexico governor for the year to more than $18 million.

"We continue to count contributions as they come in throughout the day, but this figure obviously separates us from the second-tier candidates and makes clear this is a four-person race," Richardson spokesman Tom Reynolds said Sunday.

With donations coming in slower over the summer than in other quarters, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton has not kept pace with her lead in the polls. Clinton aides said they expected to bank between $17 million and $19 million by midnight.

On the other hand, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama has raised more than any candidate in either party. His aides predicted he would be on par with Clinton, though Clinton's camp was boosting his expected take in hopes of undermining expectations about the freshman senator.

In an effort to raise the fundraising momentum ahead of the quarter's end, the Obama campaign was touting the number of donations received — more than 500,000 from more than 350,000 people this year.

"The American people by and large have not yet tuned into this election. But among those who have gotten involved, Barack Obama has inspired record numbers to take ownership of this campaign," his campaign wrote in a fundraising e-mail released Sunday.

Having raised less than his rivals this quarter, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards planned to request taxpayer funding to help his campaign.

FOX News' Julie Kirtz and The Associated Press contributed to this report.