- Associated Press - Thursday, January 12, 2012

President Obama hauled in more than $68 million for his campaign and the Democratic Party during the final three months of 2011, a show of force that allows him to compete — for now at least — in the new reality of freewheeling outside political groups.

The latest infusion of money, announced Thursday, adds up to more than $220 million in 2011 for the president’s re-election campaign and the Democratic National Committee, putting Mr. Obama far ahead of his prospective Republican rivals. In most years, it might amount to a substantial fundraising advantage, but a flurry of so-called “super-PACs” and big-dollar independent groups has changed the calculations on campaign money.

Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said in a video to supporters that they collected more than $42 million for the quarter, with the DNC bringing in more than $24 million, along with $1 million for a joint fund to help state parties in key states. That beat an internal goal of $60 million combined for the quarter.

It came a day after the campaign of Republican front-runner Mitt Romney said the former Massachusetts governor and GOP front-runner had raised $56 million for the primary through Dec. 31, including $24 million during the final three months of 2011.

Yet, even with the current money advantage over Mr. Romney and the rest of the GOP field, Democrats say they are fighting to remain competitive with Republicans because of the dominance of outside groups.

GOP-supportive super-PACs have raised tens of millions of dollars this primary season, notably the Romney-leaning Restore Our Future, as well as American Crossroads, which has said it plans to raise more than $200 million this election cycle. American Crossroads has ties to Karl Rove, a top party strategist and former adviser to President George W. Bush.

“We face some daunting odds … to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars,” said Vice President Joseph R. Biden, in a primary night address to New Hampshire Democrats. “These guys have these super-PACs now on the Republican side that will spend hundreds of millions of dollars in attack ads.”

Republicans counter that Mr. Obama is more concerned with his re-election campaign than with his job of running the country, pointing to his fundraising edge on the GOP field. Republican National Committee spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski said that “the White House may try to pretend the president isn’t focused on his re-election, but Americans know he’s more interested in campaigning to save his own job than creating jobs for our country’s unemployed.”

With the prospect of a deluge of money opposing the president, Mr. Obama’s campaign team has tried to bat away suggestions that it will raise more than $1 billion, a substantial boost from the record $750 million it raised in 2008.

“The billion-dollar number is completely untrue,” Mr. Messina said.