Mitt Romney’s $106 million fundraising haul not only stunned Democratic strategists but suggested the presumptive GOP nominee might be building an insurmountable financial advantage against President Obama.
The June figures raised by Romney and the Republican National Committee surpassed the president’s monthly total by $35 million, and Obama campaign manager Jim Messina acknowledged on Monday that his side had been “handily” beaten.
Team Obama’s second-greatest concern — trailing only a further drop in the economy — is that Romney’s fundraising will ultimately overwhelm the president’s efforts in November.
“I’m concerned he won’t have sufficient resources to fight back with,” Don Peebles, who serves on Obama’s finance committee, told The Hill. “He’s being put in a position where it’s going to be a difficult race.”
Democrats said the president’s team would need to recalibrate its expectations, especially after a 2008 campaign that looks like a high-water mark.
“It’s a very big deal, and a significant advantage for Romney,” said Tad Devine, a Democratic strategist and a veteran of the 2000 and 2004 presidential campaigns. “I think it’s clear this election is going to be very different than their last one, and I think it’s a stunning number — and there’s likely to be more of it.”
But while Democrats might be trying to portray Obama as the underdog, strategists say there are encouraging signs for the president in his numbers.
The $71 million raised by the Obama campaign in June will likely be enough to remain competitive over the airwaves and on the ground in key swing states, especially because the president’s team was able to build foundations — and begin airing ads — while the Republicans were entangled in a bruising primary.
And the campaign had around a quarter-million more donors in June than the Romney campaign, indicating strong support among Obama’s base.
Furthermore, strategists warned that over-the-air advertising can — and likely will — reach a saturation point as Election Day nears. As long as the president’s fundraising operation can stay relatively competitive, the total dollar amount might not matter as much, they argue.
A new poll on Monday showed that Obama has been buoyed by his campaign’s decision to spend aggressively on early advertising. Of swing-state voters who said commercials have changed their opinion on whom to vote for, some 76 percent say they now favor Obama, versus 16 percent who say they’ve switched their vote to Romney, according to a survey from USA Today/Gallup.
Romney’s campaign argues there is no financial advantage.
“While the Obama campaign would have you believe that they have been outspent, it’s just not the case,” said Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul in a statement. “Besides the fact that we are facing off against an incumbent president who has been able to fully engage in a fundraising battle this entire campaign, as we could not, we are only allowed to spend primary dollars from now through the convention.
“Gov. Romney has had a successful couple of months fundraising, but it does not make up for the gap that exists with primary dollars from now through [the] convention and their negative ad onslaught,” she added.
The Romney campaign reported that of its fundraising haul, $22.3 million was made up of amounts of less than $250, via more than half a million small donations. Those donors are among the most attractive to campaigns, because they can be contacted again for additional donations in the future — and represent highly motivated voters who can help lead grassroots efforts.
Of the total dollars raised by Romney, about 80 percent came from large checks, indicating Romney is flexing another advantage he has over his Democratic opponent: meaningful and deep ties to the business community.
“Romney, given his background, given his place as the son of a former governor, has connections to the top echelons of Republican Party funders and more lines to business associates, family friends and even wealthy folks who only dabble in giving than any other candidate, with the possible exception of George W. Bush,” said Carl Chidlow, a partner at Cardenas Partners who served as the finance director at the Democratic National Committee.
The figures come as the once-vaunted Obama fundraising machine has shown signs of stress.
Early in the campaign, there was talk Obama could raise $1 billion, which his campaign downplayed. And last week the president pleaded with donors for help on a conference call from Air Force One, according to reports, drawing jeers from Republican operatives.
Even major policy announcements and wins on issues like healthcare and immigration did little to dent Romney’s advantage; in fact, they might have more strongly unified the GOP base around its candidate.
The Obama campaign acknowledged the grim outlook in an email to donors on Monday, wherein Messina said he had “some good news and some bad news” to share.
“Good news first: June was our best fundraising month yet,” Messina wrote. “We exceeded expectations — more than 706,000 people like you stepped up and pitched in for a grand total of $71 million raised for this campaign and the Democratic Party. Bravo. That’s seriously impressive.”
He added: “Bad news? We still got beat. Handily.”
— Amie Parnes contributed to this report.