Obama raises $86 million for re-election effort

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama's re-election campaign and the Democratic National Committee said they've raised more than $86 million in the second quarter this year, far outpacing the combined $35 million that six Republican candidates have raised for 2012.

Obama raised nearly $750 million for his 2008 campaign, and his re-election effort is expected to top $1 billion. The campaign had set a goal for the quarter of $60 million.

Obama campaign manager Jim Messina noted that donations to the campaign came from 552,462 individuals. He said 98 percent of the contributions were $250 or less.

The president's fundraising arm, Obama for America, pulled in $47 million, the DNC another $38 million. In a conference call with reporters, Messina said more than 260,000 contributors are "totally new" and had never given to Obama before.

"This should end any Washington chatter as to whether the grassroots will be engaged," Messina said. "Our people are back and energized."

The campaign plans to release a detailed disclosure Friday, which is when contribution reports are due to the Federal Election Commission.

Obama's closest GOP rival, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, has raised slightly more than $18 million.

Some observers downplayed the significance of Obama exceeding his fundraising goal.

"No one puts out a number they don't think they can get to," said Nathan Gonzales, the deputy editor of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report.

And with the economy foremost in voters' minds, others doubt the election next year will hinge on who raises the most money.

"I don't think the election's going to be won or lost by one candidate overwhelming the other presidential nominee with money," said Fred Wertheimer, the founder and president of Democracy 21, a group that supports campaign finance restrictions.

Where it could make a difference, said Christopher Arterton, a professor of political management at George Washington University, is in the primary next spring. Obama doesn't have a challenger, and Republicans will have to spend more money early on to settle their field.

"Republicans will have difficulty clearing the decks and turning their attention to their confrontation with Obama," he said, whereas "Obama will be fairly free to muster a large war chest."

Obama's healthy haul comes as Republican candidates have reported raising less than Republicans did in the year before the 2008 election.

But Messina warns "it's going to get tougher from here," noting that GOP outside spending "could be as much as $500 million."

Wertheimer said he thinks the eventual Republican nominee will enjoy "very substantial resources."

Gonzales said while Democrats are the first to complain about outside spending by big corporations, they're just as dependent on it as Republicans.

"It's hard to feel sorry for them," he said.

That's why Messina played up the contributions of small donors, Arterton said.

"What they're angling to do is get the best kind of light cast on it," he said. "I would be surprised if more than 60 percent of the money came in small contributions."

While Arterton said Obama has raised an impressive amount of money so far, it may not matter as much because the public will be more engaged as the campaign picks up steam. He expects high turnout in 2012.

"The more general attention there is on the race, the less effective money is," Arterton said.

Wertheimer thinks that both sides will raise and spend a total of more than $2 billion.

"This is simply opening day of an unprecedented campaign finance season," he said.


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McClatchy's politics blog: Planet Washington