What's behind Obama's fundraising surge? 3 theories

The president's re-election team had a banner month in August — posting $114 million in donations and narrowly beating out the Romney camp

President Obama visits his campaign field office while campaigning in Florida
(Image credit: REUTERS/Larry Downing)

For the first time since April, the Obama campaign narrowly eked out a fundraising victory over Team Romney. "The difference wasn't much," says Daniel Politi at Slate — Obama and his team pulled in $114 million for the month of August while his GOP rival collected $111 million — "but certainly enough to claim victory." The Dems have a lot to smile about: The bump marks a huge increase over the $75 million they raised in July, and is the first time they've passed the $100 million barrier all campaign season. What happened? Here, three theories:

1. First time donors are stepping up

Team Obama reports that more than 1.1 million people donated to the campaign in August — including more than 317,000 first-time givers. And these likely weren't wealthy people: The average donation was $58 and roughly 98 percent of the donations came in at $250 or less. By comparison, only about 31 percent of Team Romney's donations were for less than $250. "It's the way the money was raised that matters," says Linda Feldmann at the Christian Science Monitor. "President Obama specializes in small-dollar, grassroots fundraising, while Mr. Romney's donors are more likely to make the maximum donation."

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2. Fundraising was up across the board

Team Obama may have been proud of its efforts, but August was also the third straight month Romney has raised more than $100 million — and it's also the GOP campaign's best one-month total yet. It's important to note that monthly fundraising totals are only part of the picture, says Feldmann. "Cash on hand matters," and Romney is strong there, with $169.5 million. Team Obama, on the other hand, "has not released the size of its war chest."

3. Romney is going after votes, not dollars

"After weeks of pushing conservative GOP themes," the Romney campaign is adopting a "less partisan tone as the race shifts toward the Nov. 6 election, which is expected to be decided in fewer than 10 states where neither Romney or Obama has a significant advantage," says Thomas Beaumont at the Associated Press. This scenario might not inspire Romney's donor base as much as conservative talking points, but now the campaign is refocusing its efforts on snagging undecided voters.

Sources: Slate, The Associated Press (2), Christian Science Monitor

Read more political coverage at The Week's 2012 Election Center.

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