ATHERTON, Calif. — His cash advantage threatened, President Barack Obama and his party are redoubling their fundraising efforts after robust hauls by Republican rival Mitt Romney and a slew of GOP-leaning super PACs that are raking in cash from the party faithful highly motivated to topple the Democrat.
Obama still has a significant edge, but it's shrinking rapidly.
That explains why the president, fresh off of back-to-back international summits, plunged back into his re-election race Wednesday with a series of fundraising events in Denver and California's Silicon Valley. The president was looking to stockpile cash to pay for his coast-to-coast organization, advertising to spread his message and get-out-the-vote operations in key states.
"We're going to have to contend with even more negative ads, even more cynicism and nastiness and just plain foolishness," Obama said in Denver. "But the outcome of the election is ultimately going to depend upon all of you." A woman shouted, "We'll just have to work harder."
It's the start of an extensive money push by Obama in the coming weeks that will feature a series of high-end fundraisers, including New York events with former President Bill Clinton and actress Sarah Jessica Parker and a Los Angeles trip to raise money among gay and lesbian supporters. Smaller-dollar pushes also are under way.
Obama, a record-shattering fundraiser four years ago, has a built-in fundraising advantage as the incumbent and still has a wide money lead over Romney, the challenger who only recently combined fundraising efforts with the Republican National Committee after a bruising — and expensive — primary.
But well-funded Republican outside groups, which are able to raise unlimited sums from donors, are narrowing that gap quickly and using their multimillions to run a slew of TV ads hammering Obama in key states. Obama aides acknowledge the possibility that he could be outraised by the influx of Republican money.
The numbers tell the story.
Through April, Obama and Democratic groups supporting his re-election bid have raised nearly $450 million during the election cycle and have more than $150 million in the bank. Romney and Republicans backing him have collected more than $400 million during the same stretch and have about $80 million at their disposal.
Gone is the 10-to-1 cash advantage that Obama held at the end of March.
To be sure, Romney was bound to erode that money gap as he pivoted to the general election.
On the money front, Romney has benefited from a strong desire among GOP activists to defeat Obama, multiple GOP outside groups willing to spending tens of millions of dollars and a well-oiled fundraising machine within his own campaign. Showing that prowess, the former Massachusetts governor raised $15 million this week during three days of fundraising in New York.
"What you see in a very short period of time is a very well-run operation that is putting Gov. Romney in a position where he's going to, maybe not outspend, but to compete with the collective Democratic fundraising," said Sara Taylor Fagen, a former political director for President George W. Bush.