President Obama’s campaign has been working tirelessly to turn Mitt Romney into a caricature of a rich candidate backed by even richer supporters. Judging by this month’s fundraising totals, they may not be far off the mark.
The Republican nominee has been a fundraising Carmen Sandiego in recent weeks, popping up at elite enclaves around the country to fete top donors. In June Romney attended a lavish retreat where a who’s-who of the GOP hosted billionaires from around the country sipped vintage port and watched Olympic ski jumpers perform in Park City, Utah. This week, Romney traveled to a series of fundraisers in the Hamptons, where New York City’s richest played perfectly to stereotype, with one attendee lamenting to the Los Angeles Times that “my college kid, the baby sitters, the nails ladies — everybody who’s got the right to vote — they don’t understand what’s going on” since they’re “not as educated.”
According to the early details of Romney’s latest fundraising totals, the glitzy optics are in tune with the reality. The Romney campaign announced Monday it took in a dominant $106 million in combined donations to the campaign, the RNC and assorted committees, compared with just $71 million for Obama.
The FEC reports are not online, but the New York Times reported that a staggering $70 million of Romney’s haul came through his victory fund, a collection of state and national party committees that are designed to take much bigger donations than the main campaign. While donors can only give $2,500 each to Romney’s general election and primary campaign, the limit on Romney Victory Inc. is $75,800. Romney’s campaign itself raised only $24 million. It’s not yet known how much of Obama’s $71 million haul came from its regular campaign.
Romney’s joint fund releases its finances on a quarterly basis, so there’s no way to tell what percentage of its cash is coming from big-money backers until July 15, but it’s extremely likely the bulk will be exactly the types of donations you’d expect to be collected at, say, Romney’s $50,000-a-plate gala in Aspen, Colo., on Monday. Obama’s own victory fund, for example, which releases its reports on a monthly basis, reported that as of May 31, only about 8 percent of its year-to-date fundraising came from un-itemized donors who gave less than $250.
Romney, of course, is not alone in attending ostentatious events aimed at high-dollar donors. Obama recently held a high-profile $40,000-per-ticket Hollywood fundraiser with George Clooney, for example. Obama also held more fundraisers than any recent president. Overall, however, Obama has been much more reliant on small donors and much less reliant on max-money contributors than Romney.
Romney’s prodigious fundraising is one of his greatest strengths against Obama, but it could be an inadvertent drag, too, if it confirms voters’ souring impressions of his business background. Romney’s latest numbers come amid a concentrated attack on his wealth by Democrats, who have been gaining in the polls as they accuse the GOP nominee of profiting off layoffs and outsourcing while investing his money in foreign assets in countries like Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.
Several high-profile conservatives, most notably Rupert Murdoch and the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, have criticized Romney for not adequately rebutting Democrats’ charges and even making things worse by spending the first week of July on a jet-ski vacation.
Obama upped the ante on Monday by challenging Republicans to extend for one year portions of the Bush tax cuts that go to Americans making under $250,000, accusing Romney of holding the middle class hostage to maintain tax breaks for the wealthy if he doesn’t go along with the plan.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.