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2012 Fundraising Numbers: Is Obama Really the $86 Million Dollar Man?


Is the media trying to skew the numbers?

The big news on the campaign trail Wednesday morning is that Barack Obama is once again an unstoppable force on the campaign trail. That's because he has raised a staggering $86 million dollars in the second quarter for his reelection campaign. But did he? Kind of. Not surprisingly, there are some media outlets skewing the data.

First, the claim from the campaign. In a video sent to supporters, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina released the numbers, and explained the $86 million figure:

That's actually not a bad tutorial. Messina, you'll notice, does at least explain how the large number breaks down. That's important, because how the $86 million is spread around is key.

First and foremost, Obama did not raise raise $86 million for his campaign. Instead he raised just over $47 million for his campaign and just over $38 million for the Democratic National Committee. That's important because some outlets such as Politico are reporting the $86 million number as if it wasn't a sum total of two different campaigns.

"The total amount Obama raised in the first three months of 2011 also amounted to more than twice the $35 million raised collectively by the announced field of Republican presidential candidates," Politco says.

But if you use the $47 million figure, the juxtaposition Politico is trying to convey isn't as shocking.

To be fair, Obama has still outraised his closest GOP contender, Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts governor leads the GOP field in fundraising, pulling in more than $18 million during the past three months. But $86 million compared to $18 million is much different than $47 million compared to $18 million.

Jim Geraghty over at NRO puts it this way:

Today the number is $86 million, an impressive sum by any measure. But it’s worth remembering, as Nathan Wurtzel notes, Obama’s total includes fundraising he did for the Democratic National Committee, as opposed to GOP candidates’ totals, which are amounts raised solely for their campaign.

To offer a more accurate comparison, you would have to toss in the totals for the RNC, which raised $6 million in April and $6 million in May. The RNC’s June total is not yet known.

Is Obama ahead in fundraising? Yes, and probably by quite a bit. But the comparison is not Obama and the DNC’s $86 million against Romney’s $18.3 million. The comparison is Obama and the DNC’s $86 million against Romney [or your preferred candidate] + $12 million for the RNC in April and May + the RNC’s June total.

Additionally, Geraghty points out that Obama's current fundraising is actually lagging behind his 2008 campaign pace:

But again, to match his $750 million from the 2008 cycle, Obama would need to average $107 million for seven quarters. Obviously, hit is possible that Obama can make up ground in the next few quarters. But to hit that hyped $1 billion number, Obama would need to raise a bit more than $142 million per quarter. As impressive as the $86 million figure is, it’s below those markers.

So why the confusing figures? National Journal explains:

The Democratic National Committee will report having raised an additional $38 million in the last three months. The two committees may raise money jointly through the Obama Victory Fund, an entity that allows donors to write checks for up to $35,800. That money is divided, with the first $5,000 of any contribution going to Obama's campaign and the rest going to the DNC (The DNC must report their fundraising totals every month, meaning the committee will report raising about $14 million in June when they file their own reports).

That's a much more accurate picture. Just don't ask Politico to paint it for you.
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