Latest figures show Obama campaign war chest approaching $1 billion

Both Romney and Obama campaigns are raising hundreds of millions of dollars. But Obama's surge in fund raising is approaching new records, largely through small, grass-roots donations.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP
President Barack Obama takes the stage during a campaign event at George Mason University, Friday in Fairfax, Virginia.

Early in the presidential campaign, there was talk of President Obama raising and spending $1 billion on his re-election effort. With the latest report and a month still to go as the hotly-contest race accelerates toward Election Day, it looks like he’ll easily make that figure.

“Some amazing news this morning: 1,825,813 people came together to raise $181 million for this campaign in September,” Obama tweeted Saturday as the campaign released its figures for last month.

That brings the Obama campaign’s total fund raising to $947 million – well on the way to passing the billion-dollar mark and the 2008 total.

The $181 million, raised by the Obama campaign and the Democratic National Committee, was far more than the $114 million raised in August and nearly as much as the record monthly amount collected in September 2008 ($193 million).

“It's a record-breaking sum that far exceeds anything Obama or Mitt Romney has previously raised in a given month, and is a sign of Obama's expansive liberal donor base reengaging in a big way for the final month of the race,” writes Alexander Burns at Politico.com.

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It’s also a sign that the Democratic National Convention in early September – especially the speeches by first lady Michelle Obama and former president Bill Clinton – energized donors as well as delegates.

Contributions have come from more than a half-million people who had never given to Obama’s presidential campaigns (either in 2008 or in 2012), campaign officials reported. The average contribution has been $53, and all but two percent were $250 or less. In all, the campaign claims to have collected more than 10 million individual donations – an effort campaign manager Jim Messina in an e-mail to supporters called “a historic record for grass-roots politics.”

In general, the Obama campaign gets most of its donations from individuals limited to $2,500, the Romney campaign more heavily from “Super PACs” with no upper limit.

As of Sept. 21, according to a Washington Post tally, Obama had raised $441 million from individuals and $44 million from Super PACs; Romney had raised $284 million from individuals and $145 million from Super PACs. The DNC and the RNC had raised $233 million and $283 million respectively.

“Obama has raised nearly half his money through small donations with aggressive solicitation programs targeting e-mail, social media, and cell phone texting services,” the Washington Post reports.

Obama’s listless debate performance Wednesday night – dispiriting to many Democrats – was followed Friday by September jobs numbers showing a symbolically-important drop in unemployment from 8.1 percent to 7.8 percent. The election is just one month from today, and the week’s two major news stories seem likely to galvanize the incumbent’s campaign.

"The jobs numbers and the campaign-finance numbers will take Democrats out of group therapy and keep them focused on the urgent task ahead of re-electing the president," Robert Zimmerman, a New York-based Democratic National Committee member and an Obama fundraiser, told the Wall Street Journal Saturday.

Although it has not yet released its September fund raising figures, Mitt Romney’s campaign says it’s seeing a surge in contributions following Wednesday night’s presidential debate, which analysts universally saw as a big win for Romney. Friday, the campaign boasted of $12 million in new online donations generated by the debate.

Given the tightness of the race – early post-debate polls show Romney closing the gap and in some states moving past Obama – the Obama campaign is urging supporters to dig deeper.

“There is exactly one month left to go until Election Day,” Messina wrote in his e-mail. “The stakes are too high for us to take our foot off the gas now. Chip in … and let’s go win.”

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