COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — 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.
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Obama still has a significant edge, but it’s shrinking rapidly.
That explains why the president, fresh off of back-to-back international summits, was plunging back into his re-election race Wednesday with a series of fundraising events in Denver and California’s Silicon Valley as he looks 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.
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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. He still, however, lags on another measure of campaign strength: Obama has had months to prepare an extensive ground game to identify, register and turn out voters.
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.
Romney has been the all-but-certain GOP nominee for more than a month now, and while he’s focused primarily on fundraising, super PACs backing him have been going toe to toe with Obama’s campaign in TV advertising. That means that Romney hasn’t had to spend heavily from his own campaign account. Chief among those groups has been Crossroads GPS and its affiliated super PAC, Crossroads USA, which quickly matched Obama’s ad buy this month after the president’s team laid out plans for a $25 million advertising campaign.
Democrats haven’t had as much success with super PACs.
A pro-Obama group, Priorities USA Action, has badly lagged behind Crossroads, while Romney has gotten extra help from another super PAC, Restore Our Future. Mary Beth Cahill, a former campaign manager for Sen. John Kerry, recently came aboard as an adviser to help.
The influx of campaign cash in the first presidential campaign since the 2010 Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court, which helped create super PACs, has taken some Democrats by surprise.