The latest fundraising numbers are in for the two presidential campaigns, and the amounts are eye-popping. President Obama and the Democratic Party raised $71 million, which is an enormous haul. But it was dwarfed by Mitt Romney and the Republican National Committee, which together raised $106 million in the month of June.
For the second month in a row, Romney raised more money than Obama — $17 million more in May and $35 million more in June. When you count all the Republican independent groups and superPACsS, Team Romney is on its way to outspending Obama and his Democratic allies by 2 or 3 to 1 — a spending disparity many political operatives think is big enough to make a difference in a close race.
That has the Obama campaign ringing the alarm bells. In an email, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said, "If Romney's fundraising continues at this pace we could lose the election."
Reached by phone in Chicago, campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt had a number of responses. The first likened Obama to George W. Bush in 2004 — an unusual analogy for the Obama campaign.
"Sen. Kerry outraised Bush every month after he clinched the nomination," LaBolt explained. "Right when a challenger clinches a nomination, there are donors who traditionally give to the party's nominee who don't during the primary process. There may have been some low-hanging fruit here."
Then there was the explanation for why the growing money gap may not matter.
"This campaign relied on early investments in building up our ground organization and ground infrastructure. That's something the Republicans have largely taken a pass on this cycle. They're counting they can win this thing on the air, and we're building the largest grass-roots network on the ground," he said.
And then, the SOS: "This is a clarion call for our supporters to invest in our organization. That's how we're going to answer this," LaBolt added.
The Romney campaign's message was lot simpler. Romney's national financial chairman, Spencer Zwick, said the June total was a statement from voters that they want a change of direction in Washington.