WASHINGTON - Mitt Romney's presidential campaign raised $12.6 million in contributions in March, adding to roughly $14 million his Republican Party brought in last month. But the combined figure puts Romney at a disadvantage with the man whose job he wants in November.
President Obama countered Romney's fund-raising haul with about $53 million in donations between his campaign and the Democratic Party during the same period. That left his campaign with $104 million cash on hand - about 10 times more than the $10 million Romney had in the bank at the end of March.
Yet a fire hose of cash from a major GOP "super" political committee is likely to bring some financial parity to the race, and Romney just recently started collecting funds for the general election. Restore Our Future, a super PAC supporting Romney, raised about $8.6 million last month, largely from a handful of wealthy donors. It spent more than $11 million on ads.
For the first time since Super Tuesday, voters are getting a look at just how much money the candidates and their supporters have been raking in. Friday also marks nearly three months since Obama's campaign changed course and asked supporters to pony up cash to a favorable super PAC.
Financial reports due Friday to the Federal Election Commission will also show how much red ink struggling campaigns are bleeding - or, in the case of the Republican super PAC American Crossroads, how much money some groups have been stuffing into their war chests. The Republican National Committee reported a March fund-raising haul of $13.7 million, which will boost the eventual GOP nominee during the general election.
Crossroads and its nonprofit arm, Crossroads GPS, raised a combined $100 million this election cycle, the group plans to announce Friday. Crossroads, backed by former George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove, has run TV ads critical of Obama and is expected to be a major player on the airwaves during the general election.
Indeed, much has changed since the March 6 Super Tuesday contests, when Republican voters in six out of 10 states chose Romney as their preferred nominee. Rick Santorum has since folded his campaign, and Newt Gingrich has been working with a shoestring budget.
Still, Obama's fund-raising advantage puts him at a less-than-solid position when compared with the tens of millions of dollars the sister Crossroads groups have amassed so far. During the last six months of 2011 alone, GPS brought in $28 million from only a few dozen major donors, recent tax filings show. Crossroads has said it plans to raise more than $300 million to beat Obama.
Countering Crossroads' millions in ad spending is Priorities USA Action, a super PAC founded by former Obama advisers. From early 2011 through the end of February, the group and its nonprofit arm raised about $10 million.
Obama is facing the prospect of being swamped by outside Republican groups in fund-raising. That's why he decided three months ago to reverse course and give his blessing to super PACs, which can accept unlimited donations from corporations, labor unions and individuals.