Obama demonized Wall Street bankers and they responded by closing their wallets. He also has called on wealthier Americans to pay more in taxes — hardly an inspiration to donate, his advisers concede. For some of his most liberal supporters, he has not done enough to promote stronger unions or tougher environmental laws.
And, unlike four years ago, Obama is not campaigning as an optimistic vessel of hope and change.
Obama and his allied DNC committees raised $71 million in June, short of Romney's and Republicans' $106 million. Romney's June haul was just the second time in history that an American campaign and its partner committees passed the $100 million mark, and signals the 2012 GOP presidential fundraising could break Obama's 2008 record of $745 million. The reports also mark a second consecutive month Obama trailed his rival.
"We had our best fundraising month yet, and we still fell about $35 million short," campaign chief operating officer Ann Marie Habershaw told supporters in an email that asked for as little as $3 to help.
That's not to say Obama is broke or even certain to be outspent. And if he is, it's unlikely to become a determining factor in the election. While campaigns need money to pay staff, finance travel and buy television ads, money alone does not win elections when both candidates are financially competitive.
From the days when Obama and Romney formally announced their campaigns, Obama and his affiliated party groups have raised $552.5 million, compared with Romney's $394.9 million. The nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation broke down the numbers and noted that Romney would need to bring in $39.5 million more than Obama each month to exceed his total.
That leaves a steep climb for Romney, but not an impossible one. Conservatives who were skeptical of Romney now are rallying behind the GOP nominee after a topsy-turvy primary season that saw their favored candidates come up short. Polling shows Republicans eager to vote Obama out of office.
Romney's vice presidential selection in the coming weeks will create additional buzz and likely unleash a fundraising wave for the final months of the campaign.
Never before has an incumbent president failed to outraise a challenger, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a campaign finance watchdog. In Obama's record-setting 2008 campaign, he made history in September by raising $150 million.
Now, it's Romney's turn to try to shatter that record — and for Obama to defend his.
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