The Obama campaign announced that it raised $68 million in the fourth quarter of 2011, while Mitt Romney, his leading GOP opponent, raised $24 million. But the margin may not be enough to carry Obama to victory, according to John Dunbar of the Center for Public Integrity.
“The guy who has the most money wins, almost always. It’s the one rule that pretty much holds steady,” Dunbar said, but he cautioned that Obama’s fundraising lead may not hold in the general election.
Rules have changed since Obama’s 2008 victory, namely the 2010 Supreme Court decision allowing super PACs to make unlimited contributions to candidates. And, according to Dunbar, Republican super PACs are much stronger than those supporting Democrats like Obama.
Romney has strong support from super PACs. One, “Restore Our Future,” raised $18 million in the second half of 2011 from only 200 donors. Obama may be able to make up for weak super-PAC support with the backing of wealthy bundlers who collect money from their networks of high earners. According to the Center for Public Integrity, the president’s reelection campaign added 90 new bundlers last quarter who brought in a total of $74.4 million.
It’s also harder for a challenger to raise more than an incumbent, but that doesn’t mean incumbents are always safe. Obama raised only $23 million at this point in 2007, $1 million less than Romney’s funds have now.
But Obama’s campaign is able to tout more than numbers: Its grassroots effort that gave him the advantage in 2008 continues. Of the 583,000 who donated to the campaign in the fourth quarter, 98 percent gave $250 or less. The average donation was $55, and 200,000 donors donated to Obama for the first time.
“Obama’s ability to raise money is just, well, it’s incredible.” Dunbar said.