President Obama's vast campaign operation raked in $86 million for his reelection and for the Democratic Party during the last three months, breaking previous records with a total far greater than those posted by his potential Republican opponents in the 2012 election.
Initially, the Obama campaign had set a goal of raising $60 million. Republican candidates combined are expected to raise less than $35 million this quarter.
Obama's haul points to the fundraising advantages of incumbency and to the staggering cost of the coming election, which in this cycle will feature a new, powerful role for independent groups that can raise unlimited sums. Those groups could out-raise and outspend the parties and the candidates this year.
The dollar total raised by the Obama campaign in the second quarter of the year reflects more than $47 million raised by the Obama for America presidential campaign and more than $38 million raised jointly with the Democratic National Committee.
Obama campaign manager Jim Messina emphasized the record-breaking number of donors contributing: about 550,000. That figure is more than the total number of donors who contributed in all of 2007, Messina said, noting that more than 260,000 of the donors are "completely new to the Obama organization and have never given before." The vast majority of contributions — 98% — came in the form of donations of $250 or less, Messina said.
Messina announced the haul in a video message that landed in supporters' email in-boxes early Wednesday morning.
In the message, he touted the campaign's vast grass-roots network, including 60 field offices and a staff of more than 1,500 full-time volunteers.
"Your early support means we can make more investments now, giving our organizers more time to build relationships on the ground, reach more people and recruit more volunteers," Messina said. "The most important thing isn’t the dollar total, but the number of people who pitched in to own a piece of this campaign."
Building that sense of ownership is a priority for the Obama campaign. At its Chicago headquarters, visitors are greeted by a large banner that carries the message: "Respect. Empower. Include. Win." — a takeoff on the motto used by Obama field organizers in 2008.
Wealthy donors also played a role in boosting Obama’s fundraising total. In recent months, the campaign ramped up its efforts to court large-dollar donors, organizing a series of events with the DNC.
The campaign also recently launched Presidential Partners, a new fundraising apparatus that asks supporters to commit a total of $75,800 to the Obama Victory Fund over the next two years.
Members of the group are required to sign a pledge that they will contribute the allowed maximum of $5,000 to the Obama campaign, $61,600 to the DNC and the remaining $9,200 to a joint committee controlled by the campaign that will funnel money to key battleground states. In exchange they will get regular briefings from the campaign and several meetings annually with top officials.
By mid-June, about 115 donors had signed up to be Presidential Partners, according to campaign officials.
Obama's closest competitor in the fundraising GOP field, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, says he will report $18 million collected during the last three months. In addition, an independent group supporting Romney says it has raised more than $12 million this year.
Obama's second-quarter total is more than was raised by the then-presidential candidate and his opponent, Hillary Rodham Clinton, in the second quarter of 2007, when the two candidates for the Democratic nomination raised a combined $60 million. In the second quarter of 2003, President George W. Bush raised $34.5 million for his reelection campaign.
Details about how the candidates have been raising and spending campaign cash will be made public Friday, when the campaigns file reports with the Federal Election Commission. Obama's report will be more than 15,000 pages long.
Matea Gold in the Washington bureau contributed to this report.