Barack Obama continued his fundraising roll in July, racking up $51 million while the DNC raised an additional $25 million.  The July total represents a small decrease from June, but more concerning to Team Obama has to be his competitive position.  He outraised McCain 2-1 over the last two months, but combined, the RNC/McCain combo has as much cash on hand as Obama/DNC:

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama raised more than $51 million in July and the Democratic National Committee reported $27.7 million in donations last month, putting Obama in a strong position for the fall campaign.

Obama began August with $65.8 million on hand and the DNC had $28.5 million available, according to statements released Saturday. His July total was slightly less than the $52 million he raised in June.

Obama’s Internet-powered fundraising efforts have shattered all previous records for a presidential campaign, bringing in a total of $390 million so far. The Illinois senator has announced he will forgo public financing for the general election, giving up $84 million in taxpayer money for the final two months of the campaign and committing himself to a steady pace of fundraising.

By contrast, Republican candidate John McCain has raised just $140 million and has agreed to accept public financing for the general election and the spending restraints that come with it. McCain has remained competitive, however, because of the fundraising success of the Republican National Committee.

All in all, the Obama campaign has had a good summer.  However, they’re increasingly playing at a disadvantage.  Obama won’t get the $84 million in public financing McCain receives on September 4th, and which will last him the final 60 days of the election.  McCain won’t have to spend a dime to get that money, and can continue to assist the RNC in their highly successful efforts — which will have all of the focus after the convention.

In comparison, the Obama campaign has to spend money to raise donations, keeping him focused on addressing the funding gap instead of campaigning.  The DNC has proven inept under Howard Dean’s leadership at raising money, which means that Obama will have to shoulder most of the effort after Denver.  As the AP notes, Democrats have already ponied up $390 million in this election cycle for the presidential campaign, and the well may soon run dry.

In order to keep pace with McCain, Obama has to raise $42 million over whatever he burns in September and October.  He’s managing to raise the money, but he’s spending a lot of it as well — and if he can’t overmatch the Republicans, his decision to break his public-finance vow will be exposed as a financial mistake as well as an abandonment of principle.

Addendum: And, to put this in perspective, what did that 2-1 fundraising advantage buy Obama?  He lost an eight-point Gallup lead, and now is in a dead heat among registered voters.