Michael E. Toner, the chairman of the Federal Election Commission, has some friendly advice for presidential candidates who plan to be taken seriously by the time nominating contests start in early 2008: Bring your wallet. “There is a growing sense that there is going to be a $100 million entry fee at the end of 2007 to be considered a serious candidate,” Toner said in a recent interview. The jockeying for the presidential nominations in both major parties is already vigorously underway, as illustrated by the parade of GOP contenders on display this weekend at a meeting of the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Memphis. For now, however, the main arena of competition is financial, as candidates prepare themselves for a race most analysts believe will involve sums vastly larger than those spent on previous presidential campaigns. Many political operatives are expecting that the gradual breakdown of the public funding system — federal funds in exchange for spending limits — that has taken place in recent years will become complete in 2008. The result would be candidates in both parties racing far past old spending records, and facing new pressure to begin raising money far in advance […]

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