By Amie Parnes - 05/31/12 09:00 AM EDT
President Obama’s campaign team and top supporters are telling donors they need to get off the sidelines now so they can compete with GOP super-PACS waging an expected $1 billion campaign against them.
The deluge of cash from outside groups backing Republican Mitt Romney has prompted a sense of urgency among Obama’s supporters. Their message to donors is simple: Send money now.
“It’s go time. It’s time to step it up,” added a top Democrat involved with one of the outside groups working to reelect the president, who said the rallying cry wasn’t a “sense of defeat or a sense of demoralization. It’s just the reality."
Obama’s campaign has worried for months about going up against groups affiliated with GOP operative Karl Rove and billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch. They’re desperate to avoid falling far behind in a campaign cash arms race expected to shatter old fundraising records.
“It makes us nauseous just thinking about all that money,” the Democratic source added. “We won’t get to a billion dollars but we’ve got to keep it somewhat competitive.”
Bill Burton, who is the co-founder of the Priorities USA super-PAC, warned that there is “an ocean” of Republican money aimed directly at Obama.
“While we won’t match the Republican attack machine dollar for dollar, as long as Democrats continue to step up, we will have the resources we need to make sure voters understand the devastating impact a Romney presidency would have on the middle class,” Burton said.
Those working for GOP super-PACs and outside groups say intensity on the Republican side indicates they have the momentum.
“The sentiment here is that there is a real energy and intensity among Republican activists and donors to do everything it takes to change the direction of the country,” said Jonathan Collegio, the communications director for the conservative group American Crossroads and its affiliate Crossroads GPS. “Donors are most apt to give when they view a distinct opportunity to change the direction of the country, and the president over the last several months has shown himself to be much weaker than many previously expected.”
Collegio said the two Crossroads groups have set the goal of raising $300 million each — and said they're “confident we’ll reach our goals.”
In an interview with The Hill earlier this month, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina called the GOP super-PACs “an absolute, serious concern for all of us.”
“You’ve been hearing me scream to the universe for the last three months that super-PACS are real, they’re out there, we have to deal with them,” he said.
But he predicted that Democrats could close the gap as more donors see the size of the hauls.
“I think you will see more and more Democrats understand that we have to fight these super-PACS,” he said.
The $1 billion outside groups allied with Romney hope to raise is separate from the money being raised by the Republican campaign. So far, Obama has Romney beat with cash on hand.
The Obama campaign had $147 million in the bank compared to Romney’s $61.4 million, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.
Obama is about to crisscross the country for a string of high-dollar fundraisers.
Next week, he will appear alongside former President Clinton in New York for one fundraiser. Two days later, he will collect checks from Hollywood A-listers in Los Angeles before coming back to New York for another fundraiser at actress Sarah Jessica Parker’s home a week later.
Later in the month, Obama will also be on hand for a fundraiser in Miami with singer Marc Anthony, a source tells The Hill. Tickets to that event range from $25 to $40,000.
Despite the billion-dollar super-PAC threat, Don Peebles, who serves as a member of Obama’s national finance committee, said he’s confident the president will have “sufficient” resources to win reelection.
“We’re focusing on continuing to reach those who support the president to get them to renew their commitments and push hard so that he has sufficient resources to push back and get the president’s message out,” Peebles said.
He said as the election heats up, the donations on the Democratic side will also pick up.
“You gotta give it time,” he said. “People are going to get more energized as we head into the fall.”
One prominent Obama donor agreed.
“We don’t find any of this that intimidating,” the donor said. “We’ll be prepared. If they think they’re going to scare us, they haven’t met us.”