President Barack Obama and Democrats pulled ahead of Mitt Romney in monthly fundraising in August for the first time in four months.
After a tough summer in which Mitt Romney battered Obama off the back of a small group of wealthy Republican donors, Democrats have engineered an impressive turnaround. Obama raised more than $114 million in August, while Romney brought in just over $111 million. That represents a stark difference for Obama, who raised only $75 million in July. He trailed Romney and the GOP in monthly fundraising during the previous two months as well.
The Obama campaign is trying to paint a stark contrast from Mitt Romney's fundraising efforts in terms of how it raised its money in August. According to Campaign Manager Jim Messina, "The key to fighting back against the special interests writing limitless checks to support Mitt Romney is growing our donor base, and we did substantially in the month of August. Fueled by contributions from more than 1.1 million Americans donating an average of $58 -- more than 317,000 who had never contributed to the campaign before -- we raised a total of more than $114 million. That is a critical downpayment on the organization we are building across the country -- the largest grassroots campaign in history."
The campaign is pointing to the fact that it was able to attract more than 317,000 new donors, with an average donation of $58, as evidence of Obama's grassroots appeal. Although Obama's campaign has held a record number of fundraisers, but it has also focused on collecting the small amounts of money that can be contributed directly to a federal candidate's campaign (the limit is $5,000 per candidate and $30,800 to a political party). By contrast, Romney has dominated in terms of mega donations which the Citizens United decision has spawned, relying on big checks from a small group of donors based largely on Wall Street.
But in her recent New Yorker article, Jane Mayer writes that the Obama campaign's grassroots narrative may not be entirely true. Although the campaign is certainly small-money focused, she argues, "Contrary to Obama’s “carefully cultivated image, the money did not grow at the grass roots.” Before Obama secured the Democratic nomination, funds raised on the Internet accounted for only a fraction of his haul. Instead, he attended a back-breaking number of fund-raisers, and asked everyone he and his supporters knew to contribute to his campaign the maximum legal amount of hard money, which was then forty-six hundred dollars."
Still, Romney's top donors, including Houston homebuilder Bob Perry and billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, have donated far more than Obama's top donors, Dreamworks chief executive Jeffrey Katzenberg and Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs.
For a full breakdown of campaign fundraising and spending to date, see the New York Times' great summary here.