STEVEN R. HURST,Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party reported Thursday rolling up $60 million in contributions last month, a jump from the previous month in money need to shore up a campaign rattled by bad economic news and a momentum-blunting loss for a fellow Democrat in Wisconsin.
The 2012 presidential race was expected to be the most costly in U.S. history, with both Obama’sre-election organization and challenger Mitt Romney’s Republican operation aiming to each haul down as much as $1 billion to spend on their bids for the nation’s highest office.
Those huge fundraising goals are in striking contrast to the U.S. economy’s snail’s-pace recovery from the Great Recession that began under former President George W. Bush. American voters say a return to economic security is the top issue that will guide their choice in the November election.
Obama’s May fundraising total exceeded the $43.6 million he and the party pulled in for April, and it was slightly above the $40 taken in by Romney and the Republican Party that month.
The presumptive Republican nominee has not yet reported his totals for May.
The new fundraising totals do not include the hundreds of millions of dollars being spent by independent, so-called “super” political action committees that can raise and spend unlimited sums of cash. Those committees are barred from working in tandem with a candidate or campaign organization.
The “super PACs” became viable under a 2010 ruling by the conservative-dominated U.S. Supreme Court, which held that corporations and labor unions could not be blocked from unlimited political spending. That undid more than a century of American law that controlled the financing of political campaigns.
Obama was mixing campaign fundraising with legislative business Thursday as he concludes a two-day West Coast trip. The day starts in the Los Angeles area with a fundraising breakfast for about 300 people. Tickets start at $2,500.
Later, Obama heads to Nevada for a speech at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The White House says the president will push Congress to pass legislation to prevent student loan interest rates from doubling at the end of the month.
This month has proved perilous for Obama so far.
He and the Democrats suffered a bitter setback this week when Wisconsin voters failed to oust the Republican governor in a rare recall vote amid anger over his cutting the collective bargaining powers of teachers, police and other public employee unions and over the slow pace of job growth.
That disappointment built on last week’s abysmal unemployment numbers. And ahead is the Supreme Court’s ruling later this month on Obama’s signature legislative achievement — the 2010 law overhauling the nation’s health care system. In oral arguments on the challenge to the law earlier this year, the justices showed little sympathy for the constitutionality of the legislation, particularly its directive that all Americans obtain health insurance coverage.
In a video pep talk to supporters this week, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina acknowledged the challenge faced by Obama, who polls show running about even with Romney.
“We need to stay focused, work hard and ignore the ups and downs,” he said.
Just weeks ago, the momentum seemed to favor Obama. Economic recovery continued, albeit sluggishly. Romney was struggling to energize the most conservative voters, who doubted him and largely supported his opponents during a divisive Republican primary race.
Now, Romney is taking heart from the Wisconsin election, where voters rejected a bid by labor unions and Democrats to oust Gov. Scott Walker in the middle of his term. Walker, a rising Republican star who enjoys support from the deeply conservative tea party movement and drew millions of dollars in support from supporters outside the state, soundly defeated his Democratic challenger, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
Republicans swiftly cast the victory as an endorsement of Walker’s tough economic policies and a repudiation of the direction Obama and the Democrats want to take the U.S.
At a San Francisco fundraiser Wednesday, Obama told donors that “the other side” doesn’t have any new ideas.
“And because they don’t have any new ideas, what they will do is spend 500, 700, a billion dollars in negative ads and their simple message will be: This is someone else’s fault and that’s enough reason for you to vote for us,” he said.
With Wisconsin voters signaling support for the Republican path, the Midwestern state has moved up on the battleground list in the presidential race. Obama easily carried Wisconsin four years ago but may face a harder time in November.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.