What Obama can do with cash from fundraising surge

Associated Press
Chart shows monthly combined candidate and party fundraising totals for the 2012 presidential campaign
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Chart shows monthly combined candidate and party fundraising totals for the 2012 presidential campai …

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama dramatically increased his fundraising last month by finding 317,000 donors who hadn't previously given money to his re-election campaign, a surge that happened around the time of the Republican National Convention. How will Obama spend it?

Obama, who four years ago shattered fundraising records, had been out-fundraised by Republican nominee Mitt Romney for three consecutive months, until August. That's not counting tens of millions of dollars in spending by outside "super" political action committees supporting Romney. Obama's campaign said Monday it pulled in $114 million last month, slightly more than Romney's $111.6 million.

With the extra money, the president can be expected to purchase more television ads, hire more campaign staffers and dump any excess cash into coffers to use if Romney and his super PAC allies, as expected, saturate the airwaves as Election Day approaches.

The competition for money has been a key indicator of support for both candidates, as Romney and the Republicans have enjoyed three straight months of $100 million-plus fundraising efforts. But the possible financial resurgence of pro-Obama super PACs could help counterbalance the flow of GOP cash that's been out-spending Obama on TV since mid-July.

"People were excited about the Democratic convention and the campaign, and there is recognition of how much money special interests are putting into Romney's campaign — especially the super PACs," said R. Donahue Peebles, a major Obama fundraiser in New York. "That all was a rallying call for the president's supporters."

Here's what Obama could be expected to do with his fundraising bounty:

—Boost ad spending. Obama and super PACs supporting him spent more than $180 million since the start of the general election this spring, according to media-buyer data obtained by The Associated Press. But that's far eclipsed by $240 million in ads through the same period, roughly April through late August, from Romney and his supporters.

Those figures show Obama has accounted for much of that spending, or more than $160 million. He spent roughly $42 million on ads in July, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. The super PAC supporting Obama, Priorities USA Action, raised $10 million — one if its most successful months in terms of fundraising.

—Expand paid staff in swing states. Obama is paying more than 800 campaign employees' salaries, according to the most recent financial reports through late July. Romney paid about 355 during that period.

Obama's payroll includes dozens of employees in swing states like Florida, Ohio and Iowa. The payroll cost Obama more than $3 million last month. He could expand existing operations, as groups working against him — notably, the nonprofit group Americans For Prosperity — conduct their own get-out-the-vote efforts in key states like Virginia.

—Sit on the cash. Through July, Obama had a slight cash-on-hand advantage over Romney, about $126.9 million compared with Romney and the GOP's $118.9 million. Romney had about $168.5 million as of Aug. 31. Obama's campaign, meanwhile, won't say how much it had left until it files paperwork next week with the FEC.

This would be unlikely since Obama's campaign has spent much of its money on advertising. In an email Monday to supporters, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina noted that although Obama barely outraised Romney, Republican super PACs in swing states had been outspending Obama's campaign by 2-to-1. Romney's campaign declined to comment for this story.

Obama's fundraising figures bring the total number of donors in August to 1.1 million, slightly raising the average contribution per donor to $58, the campaign said. Officials said 98 percent of donors gave $250 or less, but the increase in average contributions meant the campaign likely received a greater number of contributors giving larger amounts as well.

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