- The Washington Times - Monday, August 6, 2012

Erasing all doubts about his fundraising abilities, Mitt Romney on Monday announced that he and his allies raked in $100 million for the second straight month, again topping President Obama and handing the Republican a much-needed public relations boost as he prepares to accept his party’s presidential nomination this month.

As recently as January, when the candidate was in the middle of a bruising primary, Mr. Romney’s fundraising was giving Republicans pause. But since acquiring enough nomination delegates, the former Massachusetts governor has been unstoppable.

In July, the Romney campaign, the Republican National Committee and a related joint fundraising operation raised a combined $101.3 million, besting Mr. Obama and the Democratic National Committee’s $75 million.

The latest fundraising numbers have buried the idea that Mr. Obama, whose 2008 fundraising shattered records, would be able to swamp Republicans the way he did Sen. John McCain in 2008 or President Clinton did to Republican Bob Dole in 1996.

In fact, Democrats now fear being the ones spent out of contention.

“The reality is simple: If Mitt can bury us under a wave of corporate special interest cash, we will lose in November,” Robby Mook, executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, wrote in a Monday fundraising missive.

Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki said they have long expected to be outraised, but they are “on target and where we need to be” in their own fundraising.

“We know they may have more resources on the air, but we have a message that we think — and a plan that we think is going to translate better for middle-class voters and people who are deciding in November who they want to support,” she said in a briefing aboard Air Force One as Mr. Obama jetted to a fundraiser in Connecticut.

Closing the gap

Also Monday, polling from Gallup found 9 percent of voters who backed Mr. Obama in 2008 are switching sides to vote for Mr. Romney, while 5 percent of Mr. McCain’s 2008 supporters are switching to Mr. Obama.

The results showed a slow siphoning of support away from the president, though not enough to be fatal to his re-election chances, pollsters said.

Mr. Romney is counting on the Republican war chest to help sway more voters.

In the chase for donations, Mr. Romney’s July total was down slightly from the $106 million he raised in June.

“The fact that there was a decline could be worrisome,” said Bill Allison, editorial director at the nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation. “Obama started this fundraising back in 2011, and now he’s at the final stretch. Romney has to be on this incredible breakneck sprint to have parity.”

Romney’s makeover

As recently as January, when Mr. Romney reported raising only $6.4 million, fellow Republicans were worried whether he would have the resources to go toe-to-toe with the president. Last year, during the third fundraising quarter, he was bested by an erstwhile rival, Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

GOP strategist Noelle Nikpour chalked up those early fundraising totals to an “anybody but Romney” phenomenon in which Republican donors funneling money to outside super PACs and conservative-leaning causes as they waited on the sidelines for a clear front-runner to emerge.

“Everybody had a surge,” she said. “Remember when they were begging [New Jersey Gov.] Chris Christie to run? But we settled it. It’s going to be Romney, and we’re going to put money in it.”

Ray Allen, a longtime GOP consultant who counts House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, among his clients, said it’s difficult to compare the figures from the two seasons.

“It’s a total apples-to-oranges comparison when you’re in a primary and when you’re against the president who doesn’t have a primary,” he said. “It’ll be interesting to see how the Obama people react to not having the extra margin of error. They’ve thrown their best punches; Romney’s still alive and kicking.”

A new Republican Party?

Mr. Romney is scheduled to officially become his party’s nominee at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., this month. On Monday, Republicans unveiled a list of seven speakers that notably included three minority women: former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and South Carolina Gov. Nikki R. Haley, who is of Indian descent.

Other speakers announced were Mr. McCain, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

Republican strategist Ford O’Connell said the selection of the three women in particular represents a renewed focus on the future and a departure from the blaming and second-guessing that has defined the presidential campaign.

“The future is now,” he said. “We cannot continue to be the party of old white men and continue to succeed. I expect to see more speakers that are geared toward the future.”

The combined Republican fundraising efforts left the Romney campaign with $186 million on hand.

Obama’s counterpunch

Ms. Psaki declined to release Mr. Obama’s cash-on-hand total for the end of July, but the president had $147 million at the end of June compared with $170 million for Mr. Romney.

The Republican haul notwithstanding, much has been made of the amount of time Mr. Obama has devoted to raising money for his re-election campaign.

Through Sunday, Mr. Obama had held 198 total fundraisers for his own re-election committee and the Democratic National Committee in the past two years — more than his four predecessors combined, according to data compiled by Brendan J. Doherty, author of “The Rise of the President’s Permanent Campaign.”

“They’re working under a system where they have contributions in the low thousands — to limit corruption and the appearance of corruption — for campaigns that cost in the millions,” Mr. Doherty said.

The New York Times reported that the Obama campaign has had to schedule even more fundraisers to try to catch up.

Ms. Psaki declined to talk about “internal strategy” and defended the president’s schedule.

“We do feel very comfortable with our ability to balance his role as commander in chief, the time he’s campaigning, and the time that he does need to spend fundraising because it’s a political campaign,” she said.

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