WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama and the Democratic National Committee raised more than $70 million from July to September for his re-election bid, his campaign said Thursday, demonstrating Obama can still bring in big money despite dipping approval ratings.
The haul topped the campaign's $55 million target for the third quarter, as expected. It raised $86 million in the second quarter, but had predicted a third-quarter drop due to summer vacations.
"Despite lagging polls and lack of enthusiasm from his base, the quarterly report shows that the president will not be lacking the resources necessary to run a competitive national campaign," said Mark Rozell, a public policy professor at George Mason University.
Obama excelled at persuading small donors to contribute in 2008 when he won the White House, and he was keeping that up so far in his 2012 re-election bid with about 98 percent of donations in increments of $250 or less, the campaign said.
Experts say that although big contributions are essential, a steady stream of small donors who can keep giving are also important.
Obama's campaign said that 606,027 people donated during the third quarter, which it said surpassed the record set in the previous quarter and was more than twice as many donations as the campaign had at this point in 2008.
The campaign said that at last count, 982,967 people have donated to the campaign, within striking distance of the 1 million donors it seeks to show a wide base of support.
Obama raised a record $745 million during the 2008 campaign, and his advisers want to raise more for 2012 in what most experts believe will be the priciest election ever.
"Looks as though there is going to be a boatload of money spent in the election to put those out-of-work attack ad operatives back to work," Clyde Wilcox, a government professor at Georgetown University said.
Whoever wins the Republican nomination will benefit from the Republican National Committee's raising record amounts in recent months for a non-election year. The RNC took in nearly $25 million in the third quarter.
"Those numbers are pretty impressive considering they don't have a nominee yet," said Jonathan Mantz, who was national finance director for Hillary Clinton's run for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.
Texas Governor Rick Perry, once a Republican front-runner whose support has been falling in the polls, raised $17 million in the third quarter, giving him fuel to keep the campaign going despite concerns over recent stumbles in debates.
Mitt Romney has not released third-quarter figures yet, but the former Massachusetts governor raised more than $18 million in the second quarter.
Romney is expected to raise somewhere in the $15 million range for the third quarter, according to two sources who help him raise funds.
As president, Obama has an advantage over Republicans in fund-raising. Apart from money received by the Democratic National Committee, Obama's campaign raised about $43 million, shy of a record by former Republican President George W. Bush, who raised $47 million and $50 million in two separate quarters as a sitting president.
Obama raised another $27 million through the DNC, which can take in much larger donations -- of about $30,000 per person.
Reporting by Kim Dixon, Patricia Zengerle and Eric Johnson; Editing by Eric Walsh and Vicki Allen