Obama drives Democrats’ money advantage

June 22, 2011

President Obama is off to a strong start tapping large donors for his reelection, figures released this week by the Democratic Party show.

The Democratic National Committee raised $18.4 million in the first five months of the year from donors giving $10,000 or more at a time. That is more than four times the amount raised by the Republican National Committee at the same point in President George W. Bush’s reelection campaign, and it puts the Obama campaign well on its way to meeting a $60 million goal for the second quarter.

The DNC is accelerating a fundraising lead over its GOP counterpart, driven by a push from Obama, who has held at least 27 events for the party and his campaign since March.

“He has proven to be the campaigner in chief,” said Sean Spicer, Republican National Committee spokesman. “You’ve never seen a president focus on raising money as this president has done.”

Bush had held three fund-raisers at this point in his campaign, Spicer said.

Bush and the RNC raised a combined $60 million for his reelection during the second quarter of 2003, more than the goal set by Obama’s campaign. GOP presidential candidates have also been barnstorming the country for fundraisers in recent months.

The $10.2 million that the DNC raised in big contributions in April is higher than the RNC’s total for every month during the 2004 cycle, when Bush was running for reelection.

Bush did not set up a committee to raise money in conjunction with the party, which accounts for some of the disparity. Obama has been raising money through the DNC because the legal limit for a party contribution, at $30,800, is far higher than for a presidential campaign ($5,000).

The campaign is expected to rely more on large donors in this cycle than in Obama’s 2008 campaign, to which 3 million people contributed.

Small donors are urged to give directly to the campaign. Their donations won’t be disclosed for three weeks. On Wednesday, Julianna Smoot, Obama’s deputy campaign manager in charge of finance, e-mailed supporters with the subject line “How about a T-shirt?” seeking $30 donations.

The real test for Obama — and GOP presidential hopefuls — will come in the next week, as the operations push for large totals before closing their books for the second quarter. The results will be reported in July.

The RNC is working to rebuild its major donor program after two years of stagnation. In the first five months of the year, the committee raised $5.5 million from donors giving more than $10,000 at a time.

That is a major jump over Michael Steele’s tenure as RNC chair, but it still lags behind the Bush years. In the first five months of 2009, when Steele took over, the RNC raised $1.2 million from large donors. During the entire 2010 cycle, it got $6.5 million from big givers.

The party’s new leadership has also focused on lowering overhead, Spicer said. The RNC has retired $6 million in debt this year. In the first five months of 2007, while Bush was in office, the RNC took in $7.2 million from large donors.

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