President Barack Obama’s re-election effort raised more than $86 million in the quarter ending June 30, eclipsing the combined haul of the 2012 Republican field and signaling that his re-election effort will be as aggressive and imposing as his 2008 White House bid.
The total is a combination of money collected by Obama’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee, including contributions received by the Obama Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee run by the two entities.
Obama for America, the president’s re-election campaign committee, collected more than $47 million, while the DNC’s take was more than $38 million, the campaign said in a video release.
The total exceeds the $60 million second-quarter goal set by the president’s campaign and the DNC, and may help silence a narrative that Obama’s fundraising will suffer because Wall Street and business donors are sitting on the sidelines in protest of his policies. The record-breaking sum also sends a signal to existing and potential challengers that they will face a well-funded opponent in the general election.
‘Breadth of Participation’
“It’s a very impressive opening quarter, particularly in terms of the breadth of participation,” said Anthony J. Corrado, a professor who studies political fundraising at Colby College in Maine. “It indicates that he still has a very strong base of support in the party.”
In a video link e-mailed today to supporters announcing the totals, Jim Messina, Obama’s campaign manager and a former deputy White House chief of staff, drew attention to the 552,462 individuals who donated -- the vast majority of whom contributed small amounts.
“This should end any Washington chatter about whether or not our grass-roots base will be engaged,” Messina told reporters on a conference call today. “Our supporters are back, they’re energized, there’s a new generation of supporters who have joined this organization.”
In the video, Messina said: “We have reason to be proud of what we have built so far, but it’s going to get tougher from here. Our job is to bring more people into this campaign.”
More than 260,000 of those who contributed are first-time donors to Obama’s campaign, Messina said.
The average contribution to the campaign was $69, he said, adding that 98 percent of donations were for $250 or less. He couldn’t immediately provide a proportion for how much of the total was from contributions of $250 or less.
“We didn’t enter this campaign with just a database,” Messina said. “We maintained active relationships with supporters across the country. This is a huge strategic advantage for us.”
The president’s fundraising take also reflects the power of incumbency, including a U.S. Air Force jet that transports him nationwide to fundraisers often packaged around official government events.
Even when the DNC’s portion of the fundraising is subtracted, Obama’s campaign total alone is more than twice the amount raised by his closest rival and still exceeds the amount raised by the entire Republican field.
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who polls show is the leading contender for the 2012 Republican nomination, said he raised $18.3 million during the quarter.
Among other Republicans who have announced their second-quarter fundraising totals, U.S. Representative Ron Paul of Texas said he took in more than $4.5 million; former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty raised about $4.2 million; and the campaign of former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman said it collected $4.1 million, including personal money from the candidate.
Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who lost more than a dozen of his campaign staff members in a mass resignation on June 9, reported raising $2 million and being $1 million in debt.
U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, who formally announced her candidacy on June 27, hasn’t yet released her total for the quarter in advance of a July 15 deadline for reports to be filed with the Federal Election Commission. She had $2.9 million in her congressional campaign account as of March 31, all of which could be used for her presidential run.
Obama collected more during the quarter than did past incumbents at this point in the campaign cycle. During the same quarter in 2003, when then-President George W. Bush was preparing to run for re-election, he raised $35.1 million, according to the Washington-based Campaign Finance Institute. Bush set the record for a quarter in a non-election year --$50.1 million --in the third quarter of 2003, the institute said.
Messina has tried to damp predictions that the president will raise $1 billion for the 2012 campaign. Still, Obama has maintained a fundraising schedule that has included almost 30 donor events since January for his campaign, his party, or both.
His efforts helped the Democratic National Committee outpace its Republican counterpart so far this year. Through May 31, the DNC had taken in $45.5 million, compared with $30.5 million collected by the Republican National Committee, according to FEC records.
In presidential campaigns, the national party can coordinate some of its advertising with its nominee and underwrite Election Day get-out-the-vote programs. The campaign has used the money to open about 60 field offices already, with an eye toward the general election.
Obama kicked off fundraising for his own campaign with three events on April 14 in Chicago, where his re-election bid has its headquarters. His top bundlers, who solicit money from a wide circle of donors, have been asked to collect at least $350,000 this year alone. Four years ago, members of Obama’s national finance committee were instructed to raise $250,000 for the 2007-08 election cycle.
Ben LaBolt, a campaign spokesman, told reporters on the conference call that on July 15 Obama’s organization would release the names of bundlers who have raised more than $50,000.
The higher fundraising bar has been set in part because Democrats don’t know whether Obama will be helped or hurt by Republican efforts to handicap labor union finances, a big source of Democratic money. The governors of Wisconsin and Ohio have signed bills making it harder for unions to collect dues.
In addition, the campaign is anticipating a new threat: Negative ads launched by independent Republican groups created during the 2010 midterms.
The outside groups can accept unlimited donations, and many don’t have to disclose their donors because they are classified by the Internal Revenue Service as charitable social welfare groups. They are banned from coordinating their activity with candidate campaign committees, a hurdle easily surmounted by the like-minded party strategists present inside the groups.
American Crossroads and its sister organization, American Crossroads GPS, were organized with the help of Karl Rove, Bush’s longtime top political adviser. Officials with American Crossroads have said they intend to raise a combined $120 million for the 2012 election cycle.
David Axelrod, one of Obama’s top campaign strategists, said last year he expects American Crossroads and other conservative groups to spend a combined $500 million to oust the president.
The groups are providing a useful adversary for Obama’s campaign to raise money against, especially before he has a general election opponent in place, said Corrado, the Colby College professor.
Democrats have also responded by creating their own independent groups, Priorities USA and Priorities USA Action, to counter American Crossroads. Priorities USA is run by a coalition of Democratic insiders, including former White House spokesman Bill Burton. They have set an initial fundraising goal of $100 million for the 2012 season.
Unlike his other primary opponents, Romney allies have created their own outside committee, Restore Our Future PAC, to bolster his campaign. The PAC’s treasurer is Charles R. Spies, who served as Romney’s general counsel in his failed 2008 White House bid. Restore Our Future reported raising $12 million in the first six months of this year.
Corrado said he suspects Republicans won’t be overly intimidated by Obama’s quarterly total. “The Republican nominee can expect that they will receive a surge of funding, once they have” wrapped up the nomination, he said.