Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's fundraising is going so well that people are literally trying to tuck checks into his pocket on the campaign trail.
"Happens to me every day," Mr. Romney quipped Thursday after a woman tried to slip him a check at a campaign stop in Jacksonville, Fla.
The episode played out just hours after the Romney camp and the Republican National Committee announced that they raised $40.1 million in April, nearly matching the $43.6 million that President Obama and the Democratic National Committee raised.
It represented a significant bounce for the former Massachusetts governor, who raised $12.6 million in March, but who, as the only candidate actively competing for votes, appears to have unified Republican donors behind him. He also is benefiting from joint fundraising efforts with the RNC, dubbed "Romney Victory," that it kicked off last month.
Four years after Republican nominee Sen. John McCain was overwhelmed by candidate Barack Obama's record-shattering campaign donation haul, the numbers released by the Obama and Romney campaigns in the past few days suggest that the challenger will be playing on a much more level financial field in 2012.
Together, the Romney campaign and the RNC now have $61.4 million cash on hand. On Wednesday, the Obama campaign released its fundraising numbers, but did not say where it stands as far as cash on hand. At of the end of March, his campaign had $104 million in the bank.
Mr. Romney's strong showing prompted Bill Burton, the head of the pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA Action, to send an email plea asking the president's supporters to come to Mr. Obama's financial rescue.
Mr. Burton's point was underscored by a daylong back-and-forth Thursday between the two campaigns over a New York Times report detailing a proposal made to Joe Ricketts, founder of the brokerage firm TD Ameritrade, to bankroll a $10 million super PAC advertising campaign.
The campaign would have focused on Mr. Obama's relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., his former pastor, who delivered racially incendiary sermons.
"There is an ocean of Republican money coming right at President Obama, some of it dedicated to abject slime," Mr. Burton said in the email. "Now is the time to fight back."
The White House also slammed the proposal as wrong-headed.
"To launch a multimillion-dollar divisive attack campaign is not what the American people want," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters during a Thursday briefing "There are moments when you need to stand up and say that's not the right way to go."
Mr. Romney, who has consistently tried to keep the campaign debate focused on Mr. Obama's handling of the economy and his own business background, immediately repudiated the Wright campaign idea — which never got past the proposal stage.
"I want to make it very clear: I repudiate that effort," Mr. Romney told reporters after a campaign stop. "I think it's the wrong course for a PAC or a campaign. I hope that our campaigns can be respectively about the future and about issues and about vision for America."
Mr. Romney has seen his path to the Republican nomination clear up over the last month as all of his opponents withdrew or acknowledged they cannot stop him, allowing the former Massachusetts governor to turn his attention to fundraising.
Ron Bonjean, a Republican strategist, said that the strong fundraising numbers show that Republicans are uniting behind Mr. Romney. "Republicans are finally coming together after such a long primary process and showing a united front against the president's campaign," Mr. Bonjean said.
The Romney camp emphasized that 95 percent of the donations were $250 or less, and amounted to $10.1 million. Mr. Romney struggled to woo small donors in the primaries. Of the $86.8 million in campaign contributions Mr. Romney had raised through March, nearly 90 percent came from itemized contributions, which are those that exceed $200.
"Voters are tired of President Obama's broken promises," RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said. "Mitt Romney has the record and plan to turn our country around. That is why he is receiving such enthusiastic support from voters across the country."
Mr. Romney rode the good fundraising news into the event in Jacksonville, where he once again said that Mr. Obama has embraced policies that have hurt employment and slowed economic growth, while pushing the national debt past $15.6 trillion.
"I've been disappointed in the president, based upon his policies that haven't worked. I'm disappointed that so many people are out of work," he said. "I'm disappointed that the debt keeps getting larger and larger and larger, and our kids and grandkids are going to get stuck with it."
Despite heavy rains, Mr. Romney appeared to have a little extra pep in his step, and at one point, he went into the crowd looking for an answer to a question about oil drilling. Instead of an answer, a woman tried to hand him a check.
"Ow! That's a check ... I can't ... ah, we'll get that in a second," Mr. Romney said, obviously caught off-guard, sparking laughter from the crowd. That's when he assured the crowd that it's a common occurrence on the campaign trail and called on his personal aide to "get her check."
"Anybody else? Anybody else?" he said, playfully inviting the rest of the audience to pony up.
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