President Barack Obama raised $70 million for his re-election campaign in the third quarter of 2011 -- $16 million less than he reported in the second quarter, but substantially more than any of his Republican challengers.
Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, raised $14 million in the third quarter. Texas Gov. Rick Perry has raised $17 million since declaring his candidacy in mid-August, although his campaign has faded in recent weeks, and Ron Paul raised $8 million in the third quarter.
The deadline to file fundraising reports with the Federal Election Commission is Saturday, but the other candidates have not yet made their numbers public.
Obama's fundraising numbers cannot be compared directly to Republican candidates' numbers, because until the nominee is chosen, Republican financial support will be divided among several candidates. People who are donating to Herman Cain now may start donating to Mitt Romney if he ends up winning the nomination, for example, or vice versa, and once that happens, the nominee will be able to compete much more closely with Obama.
Obama War Chest Is Building
Obama does, however, have the advantage of being able to save all his money for the general election, while the Republican candidates will have to spend a good deal of theirs in the primaries.
Meanwhile, it is a good sign for Obama that he is managing to fundraise successfully in spite of his low poll ratings. His goal for the quarter had been $55 million, and he exceeded that easily. It is an even better sign that he is still raising the bulk of his money from small donations, as he did in 2008.
More than 600,000 people donated to the campaign in the third quarter to make up that $70 million sum. The average donation was just $56, and 98 percent of donors gave $250 or less, according to The Associated Press. Altogether, nearly a million people -- 980,000 -- have donated to the campaign so far.
This indicates that much of Obama's support still comes from the working- and middle-class voters who helped catapult him to the presidency in 2008, and it shows that, while his messages of hope and change have been badly tarnished, he has not lost his flair for grassroots campaigning. That grassroots ability will likely prove just as important as the number of commercials he is able to buy.
Getting to a million grassroots donors isn't just a huge accomplishment this early in the campaign, Jim Messina, Obama's campaign manager, said in an e-mail to supporters. It's our answer to our opponents, the press and anyone who wants to know whether the president's supporters have his back.
Kirsten Kukowski, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, dismissed the numbers, saying Obama would need every penny he can raise, because voters don't believe he has the ability to turn the economy around or create much-needed jobs.
Obama's road to re-election remains very much uphill, with his approval ratings hovering around 40 percent and unemployment still stubbornly high. His chances will hinge largely on which Republican candidate he faces, but the latest fundraising numbers show that he is not yet out of the game.