Obama works to keep fundraising edge

2012-05-24 12:04

Denver - President Barack Obama and his party are redoubling their fundraising efforts after robust hauls by Republican rival Mitt Romney and a slew of conservative-leaning independent groups 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 national organisation, 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."

Earlier on Wednesday, Obama declared the world has a "new feeling about America" and more respect for its leadership.

Disappearing clouds of war

Obama, speaking to graduates of the US Air Force Academy, made clear that he thinks "American is exceptional" — a counterargument to Romney, who has challenged Obama's belief in America.

Obama told the cadets that they are the first class in nearly a decade to graduate into a world that has no Osama bin Laden, no war in Iraq and no questions about when the war in Afghanistan will end.

The president said a disappearing "dark cloud of war" will mean a less strained and better prepared military, and more use of other US power - diplomatic, economic and humanitarian.

He delivered the speech hours before he shifted toward political fundraising out West.

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 during his first presidential campaign four years ago, has a built-in 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 - party primary.

Obama could be outraised

Romney has been the all-but-certain Republican nominee for more than a month now.

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.

It is the first presidential campaign since the Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that the government is prohibited from limiting corporate and labour union spending for political purposes, helping create so-called super PACs, or political action committees. The influx of campaign cash has taken some Democrats by surprise.

"I don't think anyone realised going into this cycle exactly how much money was going to be involved," said former Representative Martin Frost, a past chairperson of the fundraising arm for House Democrats. "This is a brave new world of campaign finance."

The numbers tell the story.

Cash advantage gone

Through April, Obama and Democratic groups supporting his re-election bid have raised nearly $450m during the election cycle and have more than $150m in the bank.

Romney and Republicans backing him have collected more than $400m during the same stretch and have about $80m at their disposal.

Gone is the 10-to-1 cash advantage that Obama held at the end of March.

On the money front, Romney has benefited from a strong desire among Republican activists to defeat Obama, multiple Republican 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 $15m this week during three days of fundraising in New York.

While Romney has 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.

Win a trip to New York

Obama was cheered by 550 supporters in Denver, where tickets at a fundraiser started at $250 and topped out at $40 000 per couple for a photo with the president.

Clinton, arguably the most prominent Democratic fundraiser not in the White House, is joining Obama for two events in New York on 4 June.

Obama's campaign also is raffling off a trip to New York - including airfare and hotel for what's being called "Barack on Broadway" - for two winners and their guests to attend. The two presidents will attend a dinner later that evening featuring a performance by Jon Bon Jovi.

Two days later, Obama jets to Los Angeles for a high-dollar reception with gay and lesbian supporters, featuring a performance by Pink, and a $25 000-per person dinner at the Beverly Hills home of Glee creator Ryan Murphy and his fiancé David Miller.

Some Obama aides see the president's support for same-sex marriage as an opportunity to boost enthusiasm and fundraising among gay supporters and young people. With that in mind, the Obama campaign has sought to turn the president's embrace of gay marriage into an area of contrast with Romney, who supports a constitutional amendment banning same-sex unions.

In a conference call announcing efforts to get gay and lesbian voters engaged in the Obama campaign, officials said poll numbers on same-sex marriage were increasingly tilting in their favour.