Obama supporters break campaign record with monthly donations
Campaign in sight of US$1 billion goal as mostly small donors contribute a record US$181 million in September to the president's war chest
Early in the presidential campaign, there was talk of US President Barack Obama raising and spending US$1 billion on his re-election effort. With the latest report and a month still to go as the hotly-contested 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 US$181 million for this campaign in September," Obama tweeted on Saturday as the campaign released its figures for last month.
That brings the Obama campaign's total fund raising to US$947 million - well on the way to passing the billion-dollar mark and the 2008 total.
The US$181 million, raised by the Obama campaign and the Democratic National Committee, was far more than the US$114 million raised in August and not far from the record monthly amount collected in September 2008 (US$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 re-engaging in a big way for the final month of the race," wrote Alexander Burns at Politico.com.
It's also a sign that the Democratic National Convention last month - especially the speeches by first lady Michelle Obama and former president Bill Clinton - energised donors and delegates.
But, while the Democrats were celebrating the cash haul, there were signs that Romney's confident debate joust with the president was softening support for Obama in battleground states.
In Gallup's daily poll, Romney cut the president's lead from 49 to 46 per cent, and other national polls and state surveys showed movement to the Republican.
Contributions have come from more than half a 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 US$53, and all but 2 per cent were US$250 or less. The campaign claims to have collected more than 10 million individual donations - an effort campaign manager Jim Messina called "a historic record for grass-roots politics".
The Obama campaign gets most of its donations from individuals limited to US$2,500, while the Romney campaign relies more heavily on "Super PACs" with no upper limit.
Obama's listless debate performance on Wednesday night - dispiriting to many Democrats - was followed on Friday by September jobs numbers showing a symbolically-important drop in unemployment from 8.1 per cent to 7.8 per cent. The election is just one month away, and the week's two major news stories seem set to galvanise Obama'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 on Saturday.
Although it has not yet released its September fund raising figures, Mitt Romney's campaign says it's seeing a surge in contributions after Wednesday night's presidential debate, which analysts saw as a big win for Romney. On Friday, the campaign boasted of US$12 million in online donations generated by the debate.
The Obama campaign is urging supporters to dig deeper.
"The stakes are too high for us to take our foot off the gas now," Messina wrote to supporters. "Chip in … and let's go win."
Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse