Why Obama beat Romney in fundraising for first time since April

Both campaigns raised record sums in August, but Team Obama came out on top. The secret weapon: lots and lots of small donations.

David Massey/The Daytona Beach News-Journal/AP
President Obama speaks during a campaign stop at Florida Institute of Technology's Charles and Ruth Clemente Center in Melbourne, Fla., Sunday.

Team Obama beat Team Romney in fundraising for August, $114 million to $112 million, according to figures released by both campaigns early Monday.

It’s the first time the Obama ­campaign and the various Democratic committees with whom they jointly fundraise have brought in more money than their opponents since April. And the Obama campaign is shouting from the rooftops.

Team Romney was also no slouch in the fundraising department. In fact, both campaigns posted record-high monthly fundraising totals.

But it’s the way the money was raised that matters. President Obama specializes in small-dollar, grass-roots fundraising, while Mr. Romney’s donors are more likely to make the maximum donation. The details won’t come out until Sept. 20, when the campaigns make their reports to the Federal Election Commission, but in their statements Monday, each campaign offered some clues.

Team Obama noted that its 1.1 million August donors gave an average of $58, and that more than 317,000 were first-time donors. Some 98 percent of the donations were for $250 or less. In contrast, for Team Romney, about 31 percent of the haul came through donations of less than $250.

Small donors become critical as potential ground troops when voting day draws closer – and with early voting starting soon in some states, the time to start “get out the vote” efforts is now.

But as a signal of campaign strength, monthly fundraising totals only account for part of the picture. Cash on hand matters, and Romney is strong there: $168.5 million, according to the campaign. The Obama campaign has not released the size of its current war chest. What’s true, though, is that Obama has spent a lot of money early attacking Romney, while the Romney campaign has been marshalling its resources for the home stretch.

Outside groups that support Romney have also been crushing the pro-Obama groups in fundraising.

“I’m not that concerned about the money, because a large percentage of ad buys has already been made in the battleground states by the presidential campaigns and the third-party interest groups,” meaning the political action committees, says Republican strategist Ford O’Connell.

The point, he says, is that fundraising is more critical for Obama at this stage than for Romney.

 “What is cause for concern, if you are a Republican, is that with 57 days to go in the election, Team Romney has not found a way to break through in the battleground states, especially Ohio, Virginia, and Florida,” Mr. O’Connell says. “And they can't lose any one of those states and win the White House. The electoral map is narrowing by the day, hence the ad buy in Wisconsin.”

Early voting begins in Iowa on Sept. 27 and Ohio on Oct. 2. So when the first presidential debate – Romney’s best chance to shake up a race that now tilts in Obama’s direction – takes place on Oct. 3, some voters will have already cast ballots.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.