Barack Obama: First president who fails to raise as much money as opponent?
'I will be the first president in modern history to be outspent in his re-election campaign," Obama wrote to supporters recently. How did Obama go from fundraising king to money chaser runner-up in just four years?
No one questioned Barack Obama's fundraising prowess four years ago.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Obama was the first candidate to raise more than $100 million in a month and in 2008 was the first to forgo public money for his campaign. Now he faces the threat of being the first U.S. president to be outspent by a challenger.
Obama, who four years ago broke just about every fundraising record for a presidential hopeful, has been forced to look his supporters in the eye and confess he might not keep pace with Republican challenger Mitt Romney. It's a sobering realization for his campaign, which had imagined an unlimited budget for ads, offices and mail.
"I will be the first president in modern history to be outspent in his re-election campaign," Obama wrote to supporters recently.
Obama and his allied Democratic National Comittee raised $71 million in June, short of the $106 million raised by Romney and the Republicans. Romney's June haul was just the second time in history that an U.S. campaign and its partner committees passed the $100 million mark and signals the 2012 Republican presidential race could break Obama's 2008 fundraising record of $745 million.
The reports also mark a second consecutive month Obama trailed his rival.
"We had our best fundraising month yet, and we still fell about $35 million short," campaign chief operating officer Ann Marie Habershaw told supporters in an e-mail that asked for as little as $3 to help.
Never before has an incumbent president failed to outraise a challenger, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a campaign finance watchdog. In Obama's record-setting 2008 campaign, he made history in September by raising $150 million
It wasn't supposed to be this way. Conservatives just two years ago feared Obama would raise and spend a billion dollars in the 2012 campaign. Now, there is a real possibility that Romney and his official partners at the Republican National Committee could overtake Obama in total spending.
How did Obama go from fundraising juggernaut to money chaser in just four years?
In the early days of the 2007 primaries, he used fundraising success to puncture Democratic challenger Hillary Rodham Clinton's aura of inevitability. Obama surpassed Clinton's primary fundraising in the first two quarters of that year — $25 million to Clinton's $20 million from January to April, and $31 million to Clinton's $21 million in the three months that followed.
The numbers shocked observers and inspired supporters to give even more to the fresh-faced, first-term senator from Illinois. But now that magic seems elusive.
"They bought into hope and change, and they're not getting it. There's some buyers' remorse," said Greg Mueller, a Republican strategist.
The potential was so great at the time that Obama became the first modern candidate to bypass the public financing available to presidential candidates, and the spending limits that come with it, since the system was created in 1976 in the wake of the Watergate scandal.