WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorneys, business owners and retirees were among those who helped President Barack Obama maintain slim fundraising supremacy over Republican challenger Mitt Romney last month, with the president raising $181 million as he entered the last full month in the fight to keep his job.
An Associated Press review of newly released financial reports found at least $11 million from lawyers and at least $3 million from investors and bankers, some of whom cooled to the president earlier this election when critics say he cracked down on Wall Street and pushed for consumer-protection reforms. About $22 million more came from retired Americans, an important bloc of voters likely more tuned in to health care reform and changes in retirement benefits.
Their contributions, among hundreds of thousands, went hand-in-hand with record donations to an outside political group helping Obama win a second term. Still, the president began October with less available money to spend than Romney, as Obama's campaign, the Democratic Party and related groups reported $149.8 million cash on hand. That's compared with $183.1 million in the bank among Romney's campaign, the GOP and his joint-fundraising apparatus.
All told, a swath of small-dollar contributions helped Obama and the Democratic Party best Romney and the GOP by more than $10 million last month after being repeatedly walloped in the money race earlier this year. The president's fundraising haul topped the more than $114 million he and the Democrats raised during the month of August, and the cash Obama pulled in last month was slightly less than his record-breaking $190 million from September 2008.
Financial support to Obama and Romney are putting the presidential election on track to cost nearly $2 billion, thanks to mountains of cash earmarked to both campaigns and independent "super" political committees working on their behalf. Wealthy Americans are increasingly picking up the tab this year, at times giving millions of dollars apiece to super PACs that have buoyed costly advertising.
September's reports show major financial support going to both Republican and Democratic super PACs, with the pro-Romney Restore Our Future PAC reporting it collected $14.8 million in September, the group's second-most lucrative month. Late Saturday, American Crossroads, the major super PAC headed by GOP strategist Karl Rove, reported $11.6 million for September, the highest single-month total for the group.
Rove's top donors in September included Texas billionaire Harold Simmons, who gave $2.5 million and Oklahoma coal baron Joseph Craft III, who gave $1 million. Another $1.32 million was donated by the Armstrong Company, a Pennsylvania conglomerate which provided the donation as "in-kind cable access, and $1 million from Jay Bergman, an Illinois oilman.
Meanwhile, Priorities USA Action, the pre-eminent Obama-supportive super PAC, said it raised a record $15.3 million.
"People who support the president know that we've come too far to go back now," Priorities senior strategist Bill Burton said. "We're ahead a little bit now, but it is time to close the deal."
Both campaigns and super PACs have made an all-out push for contributions as Election Day quickly approaches. The contributions are funding a record-breaking campaign operation for both candidates, which translates to paying a legion of campaign staff and hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of television ads.
So when it came to contributions directly to Obama's campaign, business owners and some Wall Street types helped pick up the tab, even if they didn't make up a majority of total contributions. Obama's donors in September included more than 4,000 CEOs, records show, and his campaign continued to tally millions pouring in from key battleground states.
Yet Obama hardly has a lock on winning the financial fight.
Republican super PACs have helped to match or exceed Obama's TV ad spending in dozens of media markets in battleground states. Ad spending data obtained by the AP from April through early October found pro-Romney spending has exceeded pro-Obama ad spending by at least $65 million across the nine states expected to decide the election: Colorado, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, Iowa and Wisconsin.
Obama broke presidential fundraising records four years ago, but has found himself financially outgunned for much of the summer, thanks in part to super PACs supporting Romney. Meanwhile, an AP review of campaign data this fall found Obama out-raising Romney in most of the 11 states that at one point were pivotal to win the election.
Reports detailing revenues and expenses for the first half of October are due to the Federal Election Commission by Oct. 25. Those will provide the public with the last financial snapshot before the Nov. 6 election.
Associated Press writer Stephen Braun contributed to this report.
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