WASHINGTON — Off to a huge early lead in the money race, President Barack Obama hauled in $86 million for his re-election campaign and the Democratic Party in the past three months. It's better than he did in his victorious first presidential campaign, despite the sluggish economy and constant criticism from Republicans who hope to replace him.
The president's advisers have told donors privately they hope to match or exceed the $750 million they raised in 2008, perhaps bringing in as much as $1 billion.
Obama's campaign said Wednesday it raised more than $47 million and the Democratic National Committee brought in more than $38 million through the end of June, surpassing a stated goal of $60 million combined. Campaign officials sought to use the numbers to put to rest any questions about support, noting more than 550,000 people gave money, many for the first time.
"Our supporters are back, they're energized, there's a new generation of supporters who have joined this organization," said Obama campaign manager Jim Messina.
Even though the president faces no primary opponent and it may take months to determine a GOP nominee, Obama's team has prepared for a stiff challenge amid rocky economic conditions and tricky negotiations with congressional Republicans over the nation's debt ceiling.
Obama's fundraising juggernaut outpaced Republican presidential candidates, who have collectively reported about $35 million so far, although some candidates have yet to release their results. At the same time in 2007, 10 GOP presidential hopefuls had raised more than $118 million, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney leads the GOP field in fundraising, pulling in more than $18 million during the past three months, and an independent group supporting Romney's presidential bid has raised $12 million this year. Other Republicans have been in single digits, including former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who collected $4.2 million in the past three months, and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who reported $4.1 million, about half coming from his personal wealth.
Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann has not yet released her fundraising totals. Through the end of May, the Republican National Committee had raised about $30 million this year, but it is still trying to reduce a large debt incurred in recent years.
Despite the early disparity in money, Republicans said they would compete strongly with Obama next year and make his handling of the economy a central part of the campaign. "With the economy in the tank, the president can't win re-election," said RNC chairman Reince Priebus.
Romney media adviser Stuart Stevens said the "DC power structure is invested in President Obama. They should keep raising money. Our goal is to make them spend it all."
With the proliferation of independent groups raising millions to influence voting, the campaigns' money will be only part of the massive spending expected through next year's election. American Crossroads, founded by Karl Rove, a former adviser to President George W. Bush, and Americans For Prosperity, founded by billionaire oil brothers David and Charles Koch, spent heavily in the 2010 elections and have pledged to invest millions in 2012 to defeat Obama.
Several Democratic groups have formed to compete with the conservative organizations, including Priorities USA, which was founded by former Obama White House aides Sean Sweeney and Bill Burton. Their group has set a goal of raising $100 million.
Obama's campaign has emphasized attracting small-dollar donors and building a network of volunteers. Messina said more than 260,000 people had given money for the first time this year — a large increase from about 180,000 donors to Obama during the first half of 2007 when he first ran for president. By the end, about 3 million people had donated to Obama's first campaign.
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