03/28/2008 02:45 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

'08 Campaigns Flooded With Cash, Save GOP Frontrunner

This was supposed to be the election year of big bucks. But John McCain, who has taken firm hold of frontrunner status, began 2008 with his campaign $1.6 million in the red, according to reports filed Thursday at the Federal Election Commission.

On New Year's Day, with crucial contests looming in Iowa, New Hampshire, Michigan, South Carolina and Florida, McCain had just $2.9 million in the bank, and debts of $4.5 million.

McCain's success while operating on a shoestring is testament to the fact that one win -- New Hampshire in his case -- can trump cash. That victory was used to leverage as much free media as possible, sparing the Arizona senator from having to buy expensive television time.

McCain is now decisively ahead of candidates who started 2008 with superior financial resources.

Rudy Giuliani, whose bid collapsed in Florida, began the month with four times as much cash as McCain -- $12.8 million, his January 31 FEC report disclosed.

On the surface, Mitt Romney appeared to be in even worse shape than McCain with a paltry $2.4 million in the bank and a massive $35.5 million in debt.

But Romney's FEC report does not tell the whole story. The $35.5 million shortfall is actually money that Romney loaned his own campaign with little likelihood of ever getting paid back. The former CEO of Bain Capital, whose personal fortune is approximately $250 million, has taken on responsibility for financing the lion's share of his bid for the Republican nomination.

The key figure for Romney is not the campaign's bank account; it's the additional cash Romney is prepared to fork over. He and his aides are keeping that figure close to the vest.

On the Democratic side, the two remaining competitors are luxuriating in wealth. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have each raised over $100 million in 2007.

Clinton reported that at the start of 2008, she had $37.9 million in the bank, and that she raised $27.3 million in the last three months of 2007. That brought her grand total to $104.6 million.

Obama, in turn, reported $18.8 million cash on hand, after raising $23.5 million in the last quarter of 2007, and an overall total of $101.4 million.

Both Clinton and Obama broke all records for Democratic fundraising during presidential primaries.

While Clinton began the year with more than twice the cash that Obama had, Obama's campaign sought to ally fears that he would be dramatically outspent by preemptively announcing that he raised over $32 million in January alone.

See all of the latest fundraising results at HuffPost's Fundrace 2008.