President Obama and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) raised a combined $70 million in the third quarter, highlighting Obama’s fundraising muscle.
Obama’s campaign noted the total was higher than the $55 million it had anticipated and came after the president was forced to cancel some fundraisers to work on debt-ceiling negotiations with congressional Republicans.
“We did more with less this quarter. We canceled a series of events over the summer as congressional negotiations were ongoing, and our supporters stepped up in their stead,” one campaign official said.
Republicans countered that the figures are no surprise. They said they always knew they would be running against a president with a huge campaign war chest who would also enjoy the advantages of incumbency.
They also predicted the money would let an unpopular president unleash a stream of negative attack ads in the general election.
“The Republican nominee will face a very huge war chest that will be funding a relentlessly negative campaign from a president who has no choice but to tear down his opponent, given his failure on the economy,” said Kevin Madden, a veteran Republican operative who served as Mitt Romney’s press secretary during the former Massachusetts governor’s 2008 campaign.
The figures were a shot in the arm to Obama’s supporters, who said the $70 million haul shows Obama remains popular with grassroots Democrats.
Obama is closing in on 1 million donors, “something that took us a year to accomplish between February  and February ,” said the campaign official, who noted the president was “in the midst of an energetic primary” at the time, which helped fundraising.
The campaign and the DNC reported 606,027 people have donated to the campaign, and given more than 766,000 donations. All but 2 percent of the donations were $250 or less. The campaign reported the average donation was $56.
“Early money is a strong sign of support,” Democratic strategist Karen Finney, a columnist for The Hill, said in an email. “[It] also reminds the GOP that beating him would not be easy.”
Romney is riding a wave of momentum this month and increasingly is seen as the Republican candidate most likely to take on Obama, though he continues to fend off criticism that he is not conservative enough to earn the party’s nomination. Romney has yet to announce his own third-quarter fundraising totals, but they are sure to be dwarfed by Obama’s.
Obama does not have primary opponents to worry about, which gives him another advantage in fundraising.
The president’s campaign raised $86 million in the first quarter, and is garnering both primary and general-election funds. Because Obama has no competitive primary opponents, the primary money will roll over into Obama’s general-election fund.
As president, Obama has some other advantages not shared by Romney or any other Republican.
“Obama is going to enjoy and make full use of the advantages of his incumbency, whether that’s raising a billion dollars or dropping into battleground states on Air Force One,” remarked Madden.
In the last six weeks, Obama has visited the home states of Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerFeehery: The next Republican wave is coming Rift widens between business groups and House GOP Juan Williams: Pelosi shows her power MORE (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFive issues that will define the months until the midterms Key senators to watch on Democrats' social spending bill Republicans seem set to win the midterms — unless they defeat themselves MORE (R-Ky.). He’s also held fundraisers in the last few weeks with Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-Mo.) in St. Louis, NBA stars Grant Hill and Vince Carter in Florida and Lady Gaga in California.
On Oct. 24, Obama will attend a fundraiser in Los Angeles co-hosted by “Desperate Housewives” star Eva Longoria at the home of Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas, according to a report this week in The Hollywood Reporter.
Republicans will hardly arrive to the general election unarmed. In fact, the money Obama’s campaign is raising could well be dwarfed by the money raised by new super-PACS working for both parties.
But for now, Obama’s fundraising success indicates that he might be in better shape than is generally thought, especially with the Democratic base.
Lara Brown, a professor of political science at Villanova University and author of Jockeying for the American Presidency, said that there is no question Obama is in a unique position to raise huge amounts of cash.
“Obama is an incumbent president running unopposed for his party’s nomination and against what his supporters view as a field of conservative extremists,” Brown said. “No intra-party competition and high degrees of partisan polarization are a recipe for large fundraising hauls and big voter turnout.”
But Brown noted that Obama’s third-quarter numbers tracked with Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s meteoric, if fleeting, rise. She suggested it could prove more difficult for Obama to raise money if Romney is the nominee.
“Enthusiasm can be another word for fear,” Brown said. “It will be interesting going forward to see whether the trends continue as Gov. Mitt Romney’s fortunes rise.”