The Washington Times - May 16, 2012, 10:08AM

President Obama’s campaign and the Democratic party committee helping him get re-elected raised $43.6 million in April, down from the previous month’s take, despite the beginning of the general election campaign, with Mitt Romney all but securing the Republican presidential nomination.

Mr. Obama’s campaign raised more than $53 million in March, at the end of the first quarter, when the fundraising drive was particularly aggressive and sent out multiple emails from Mr. Obama and his surrogates asking for money in the final 24 hours.

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But some political observers expected his campaign to get a boost in April, the same month it became clear that Mr. Romney would be Mr. Obama’s opponent after former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum dropped out of the primary race on April 10.

Campaign manager Jim Messina, in a video statement, touted the fact that 98 percent of the donations were from individual donors giving less than $250, with the average donation coming in at $50.23, a sign of the campaign’s grass-roots support.

The campaign is closing in on the 2 million donor mark, and more than 437,000 people donated last month, 169,500 of whom were first-time donors.

The campaign still could match or exceed the $750 million Mr. Obama raised in 2008, although it will have to increase its fundraising pace significantly to do so. Through the end of April, the campaign has amassed a total of $253.6 million, which includes $38.25 million left from the 2008 race.

The Republican National Committee argued that the March-to-April decline in receipts shows a lack of enthusiasm for the president’s re-election drive, with the economic recovery moving along only in starts and fits.

“Barack Obama is still the fundraiser-in-chief, but even he is struggling to sell the American people on his brand of hype and blame that has left millions without jobs, a struggling housing situation, and record deficits and debt for future generations,” Republican National Committee spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski said.

Democrats say fundraising efforts this year are complicated by the rise of independent super PACs and funds raised for the party organizations.

Mr. Messina warned in the video about the vast sums of money super PACs are spending on negative ads to defeat the president, with $57 million already expended on negative advertising against Mr. Obama since October.

“One of the most important things we can do is get our arms around the fact: This election is going to be close, given the historic challenges the nation faced when the president first came to office,” he said. “Oil company executives and other special interests are dumping millions of dollars in super PAC attack ads.”