Obama campaign raises more than $45 million in February

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign and its Democratic allies raised more than $45 million in February, increasing their financial haul compared to January as worries mount that Republicans could outspend Democrats in 2012.

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta March 16, 2012. REUTERS/Larry Downing

In a statement released on Twitter, Obama’s campaign said 348,000 people contributed last month and 105,000 people gave money for the first time.

Nearly 98 percent of the month’s contributions were $250 or less, it said.

“Since April 2011, a total of 1.64 million people have pitched into own a piece of this campaign,” the Twitter message said.

Obama’s Chicago-based re-election effort has spent the past several months building up a grassroots effort it hopes will help turn out the vote on Election Day in November.

Obama’s campaign, the Democratic National Committee, and other joint fundraising committees took in a combined $29.1 million in January.

The Republican National Committee noted a different trend: Obama’s February numbers were a drop from the $56.78 million his campaign raised on its own in February 2008.

“After three years of policies that have left our country with record debt, high unemployment, and soaring gas prices and healthcare costs, it’s clear President Obama is having a hard time convincing voters he deserves another term,” RNC spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski said.

Obama was in the middle of a tough primary battle with then-Senator Hillary Clinton in February 2008.

The Obama campaign said the funds it is raising now are focused on the November 6 general election. Republican candidates, who are still in the middle of divisive fight for their party’s presidential nomination, are spending their campaign cash on the primary race.

“Every dime the Republicans are raising will be spent on the air carpet-bombing each other,” said Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt. “As we work to build the largest grassroots campaign in history, our funds are a direct investment in our general election infrastructure on the ground.”

The Obama campaign is confident about its infrastructure but worried about money.

Campaign officials fear that outside groups known as Super PACs could outspend Obama in their quest to put a Republican in the White House.

Super PACs are political groups that can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to influence political campaigns, even though they cannot be directly affiliated with a candidate.

To help offset those groups’ financial strength, Obama held a five-event fundraising spree on Friday in Chicago and Atlanta, where he was projected to raise nearly $5 million or more.

The president is his campaign’s best fundraising draw and he has done roughly twice as many fundraisers at this point in his re-election effort as his predecessor, Republican President George W. Bush, had done at the comparable time.

Obama has utilized the drawn-out Republican primary race to focus on boosting his campaign’s coffers. Though his campaign had roughly $750 million for the 2008 election, it is concerned that the same amount would not be sufficient this year to counter the onslaught of ads from the Republican opposition.

The Super PAC supporting Obama, Priorities USA Action, raised $2 million in February, significantly less than comparable amounts raised by Republican-leaning groups.

White House and Obama campaign officials are now appearing at Priorities USA events to help boost its money-raising prospects.

Editing by Bill Trott