Obama Raises $45 Million In February

President Obama's re-election campaign hauled in more than $45 million last month. That's up from January, but less than he raised during the same period four years ago.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

Each month, we get a look at the presidential candidates' finances. And for last month, President Obama's campaign says it raised more than $45 million. That's about four times what Republican Mitt Romney brought in. Still, it is less than Mr. Obama himself had raised four years ago by this point in the campaign. NPR's Scott Horsley takes a closer look at the numbers.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: We won't get a full picture of the president's campaign finances until tomorrow, the deadline for reporting to the Federal Election Commission. But we did get some selective highlights today from the campaign's Twitter feed and a bouncy Web video, starring youthful operatives from swing states around the country.

(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: This campaign continues to be funded...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: ...by folks from all 50 states...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: ...giving what they can.

HORSLEY: Some 348,000 people contributed to the campaign last month, 30 percent of them for the first time. The vast majority of donors, nearly 98 percent, gave $250 or less.

(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: It's not the easiest way to win an election.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: But it's the right way.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: And it's how we win in November.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: So thank you for supporting Washington...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: ...and Pennsylvania.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: Ohio.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: North Carolina.

New Mexico.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #4: Nevada...

HORSLEY: That emphasis on small donors fits the campaign's self-image as a populist, grassroots movement. It also obscures a potential weakness of the Obama campaign: its lag in attracting big donors who write checks for $2,000 or more. According to The Washington Post, then-candidate Obama had 23,000 big-dollar donors at this point in the campaign four years ago. This time around, he's got less than half that many.

That could be a sign of a weaker economy or complacency among supporters who don't believe Mr. Obama needs their help. Sheila Krumholz, who tracks campaign finances at the Center for Responsive Politics, says it's also likely some former donors had been put off by the president's policies.

SHEILA KRUMHOLZ: Given the health care reform and the financial reform, I think there are a lot of deep-pocketed donors out there who may be reconsidering their previous support.

HORSLEY: Mr. Obama acknowledged at a fundraiser in Chicago last week, nowadays he's got a little more gray and a little less green.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It's not as trendy to be involved in the Obama campaign as it was back then.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: Some of you, you know, rolled up those hope posters, and they're in a closet somewhere.

HORSLEY: The president's fundraising still dwarfs that of his Republican rivals. But any financial advantage for Mr. Obama could be overwhelmed by the conservative superPACs, which can raise money in unlimited amounts for his defeat.

We also don't know yet how much of the $45 million raised by the Obama campaign last month has already been spent. Krumholz notes the campaign has been quietly shelling out lots of money to open offices, register voters and prepare for a fierce political ground game in the fall.

KRUMHOLZ: If they're burning through their money, the huge numbers in totals raised may not be as impressive.

HORSLEY: The Obama campaign is spending a good deal of money to raise money from small donors and a substantial amount of the president's time courting big contributors. Since launching his re-election campaign last year, Mr. Obama has hosted about twice as many fundraisers as former President George W. Bush, including five last Friday and one more tonight. Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House.

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