NEW ORLEANS – Battling for every dollar and delegate, Barack Obama raised $7.2 million in Super Tuesday’s wake and Hillary Rodham Clinton pulled in $6.4 million, stunning totals reflecting the intensity of their neck-and-neck race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Keenly aware of Obama’s growing strength, Clinton challenged him to five debates in the next month. Obama initially put her off, then later agreed to two.

“We’ll have some debates,” Obama promised. But first, he said, “I’ve got to spend time with voters.” Clinton, he argued, is better-known to voters in states coming up on the primary calendar.

Clinton, who loaned her campaign $5 million in the run-up to Super Tuesday, brushed aside the notion she has money problems.

She pointed to the roughly even split of delegates still being allocated from Tuesday’s primaries and caucuses as evidence her campaign has the financial muscle to compete.

“We’re going to be fine,” said Clinton. “By the end of the week, we’ll be back on track,” she told ABC.

Top Clinton advisers offered to work without pay, but that wasn’t necessary with the sudden influx of cash.

National campaign chairman Terry McAuliffe, in a conference call with 300 Clinton fundraisers nationwide, assured them: “All staff 100 percent paid. Not an issue.”

Indeed, whatever the current balance in the money chase, both candidates have been raising and spending incredible sums.

Each raised $100 million last year and sped through at least $80 million. That compared to $128 million raised by all the Democratic candidates combined during 2003, the comparable period four years ago. President Bush, running uncontested, pulled in $129 million of his own that year.

Any financial crunch for Clinton would be largely due to lopsided fundraising in January, when Obama pulled in $32 million to her $13.5 million.

“Obama was able to do what no one thought possible, which is to finance Super Tuesday,” said Anthony Corrado, a campaign finance expert at Colby College in Maine. “He was able to advertise in more states, went on TV earlier in more states and put more resources into ground efforts in most of these states.”

Looking ahead, Corrado said, the question for Clinton is whether she will have the cash needed for expensive advertising campaigns in upcoming contests including Ohio, Wisconsin and Texas.

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