Obama outpaces Romney in fund-raising in Philly region

Posted: August 24, 2012

President Obama, capitalizing on a strong and well-established Democratic donor base in the Philadelphia region, has started to separate himself from Mitt Romney in tapping the area for campaign cash.

An Inquirer analysis of Federal Election Commission reports shows that in a 15-month period ending July 31, Obama took in $4.3 million from individual donors in the eight-county region, which includes five counties in Southeastern Pennsylvania and three in South Jersey.

Romney, during the same period, raised $3 million, falling off in June and July from a very strong April and May, during which he topped Obama in the region by $752,000.

Obama especially gained ground in donations from the suburban counties. In June and July he ran ahead of Romney by $910,000, largely on the strength of a major fund-raising event in Philadelphia.

The totals include donations made directly to the candidates' campaign organizations as well as contributions funneled to them through joint fund-raising efforts with other candidates and their respective parties.

The numbers are a snapshot - a fixed point in a long campaign - and come from before Romney's selection of U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan to be his running mate.

Hersh Kozlov, a Romney friend from South Jersey, said Tuesday's visit by Ryan helped supporters raise about $500,000 for the GOP slate at a donors' reception at the Union League of Philadelphia.

Kozlov, who donated the legal maximum of $2,500 to Romney's general election campaign on July 7, said he expected the race to be very competitive, money-wise, in the region.

"There is a lot of antipathy toward the current occupant of the White House," said Kozlov, a lawyer. "There is a lot of anger, and anger turns into fund-raising."

Nationally, as well in the region, the latest financial reports show Obama leading Romney in direct campaign donations - $348.4 million, compared with $193.3 million. But that's not the whole picture.

The 2012 election is awash in cash from the national party committees and super PACs. These affiliations have been more helpful, at least in sums raised, for Romney than Obama.

According to an analysis by the Associated Press, Romney and the Republican Party combined to raise $101 million in July, compared with $75 million raised by Obama and the Democrats.

Then there are the super PACs, which can raise unlimited sums as long as they don't coordinate their efforts with the candidate they support. According to Bloomberg News, the Romney-backing Restore Our Future super PAC has brought in $89.7 million, compared with $25.5 million for Priorities USA Action, which backs Obama.

Obama, while outraising Romney in the Philadelphia area, can't be entirely happy with his fund-raising pace compared with 2008, when his primary contest with then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton held Democrats in thrall.

A contest for the nomination usually generates more money-raising - which may help explain why Romney did so well with local donors this spring. His last major GOP rival, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, quit the race April 10.

Federal records show that as of July 31, Obama was $893,000 behind his 2008 pace. But that was an improvement from the end of May, when he trailed his pace of four years ago by $1.26 million.

Michael Sklaroff, a Philadelphia lawyer whose $2,500 Obama donation on June 13 is counted in the latest reports, said the high optimism of Obama's 2008 campaign has collided with the difficult reality of getting things done in Washington.

"Obama's had a tougher time this time raising money because in the world of rock-paper-scissors, reality crushes hope any day of the week," Sklaroff said Wednesday. "The reality is, he has excelled in certain areas and has had a tougher time in others."

Larry Ceisler, a veteran Democratic analyst who donated $2,000 to Obama on June 7, said the Philadelphia region typically is a Democratic money stronghold.

"It's just that Democrats have mined this region for a long period of time and in a more deliberate way than the Republicans," he said.

Obama leads narrowly in Pennsylvania polls. Romney would have a potential problem, Ceisler said, if the former Massachusetts governor starts to send signals to area GOP supporters that he is giving up on the state and directing his main campaign efforts to other key states.

For now, no such signals are going out - if anything, Ryan's Wednesday campaign swing through Pennsylvania evidences Romney's hopes of winning a state that has gone Democratic in recent presidential races.

Ceisler said Democratic donors can be pretty sure their candidate's campaign won't be cutting back on its Pennsylvania spending any time soon.

Contact Tom Infield at 610-313-8205 or tinfield@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @tinfield.

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