"The key to fighting back against the special interests writing limitless checks to support Mitt Romney is growing our donor base, and we did substantially in the month of August," Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said in a statement. "Fueled by contributions from more than 1.1 million Americans donating an average of $58 -- more than 317,000 who had never contributed to the campaign before -- we raised a total of more than $114 million. That is a critical downpayment on the organization we are building across the country -- the largest grassroots campaign in history."
The fundraising jump could help to put to rest a discussion that has occurred throughout the campaign about how the president is falling short in his fundraising, with the Romney camp's recent heavy fundraising seen as the latest evidence. The stated concern is that Obama is not meeting the fundraising record set in his first run for office in 2008 -- or the $1 billion campaign that officials in, or close to, his campaign allegedly once predicted.
The problem with these assertions -- which have circulated through blogs and news sites -- is that they've been wrong throughout the entire campaign. There is a chance that Obama will match the record $750 million that he raised for his campaign committee in 2008. That depends on the amounts the campaign raises in September and October. (It also depends on the breakdown of the $114 million raised in August and how much is for the campaign itself.)
One thing that is certain, Romney's campaign committee will not come close to reaching $750 in campaign receipts -- assuring that he will not be the "best-funded candidate ever." (Romney would have to raise $500 million for his campaign from August through October, or $200 million more than Obama raised during the same time in 2008.)
In fact, no matter how you slice the funds raised by the two candidates, Obama remains the leader, although Romney made up a lot of ground over the summer. Obama is way ahead when we just consider funds raised by the candidate's campaign committees and significantly leads when including the party committees. The most generous comparison, and the one that includes the just released, although not officially reported, August numbers shows that Obama, the DNC and his two victory committees have raised $689 million since April 2011, while Romney, the RNC and his victory committee have raised $613 million.
While each fundraising month is important, September will be the key month to watch in the post-public financing world. In 2008, Obama raised a record $150 million, for his campaign alone, and $192 million, when including funds raised by the DNC. Can either Obama or Romney match that amount?
The only indicator currently available is a push by the Obama campaign to get 600,000 grassroots donations during the Democratic National Convention week. By the end of Friday, at midnight, the campaign had received 700,000 donations. If those donations come in at the average $58 amount that the campaign has consistently raised then, in one week, they would have raised $40 million, solely from contributions received online.
On Romney's side, the August numbers could be seen as a let down. Raising $111.6 million is impressive, but it isn't much higher than his previous two months despite August including big events like his choice of Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate and the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. These events should help with fundraising, but they appear to have had minimal impact in August.