WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama's re-election campaign raised $68 million in the last three months of 2011, closing out a healthy year that dwarfed his Republican opponents.
The figures include more than $42 million for the campaign and more than $24 million for the Democratic National Committee, campaign manager Jim Messina said.
That brings his 2011 total to more than $220 million.
Messina called the haul a "pretty good quarter" in a video to supporters, but he sounded a cautionary note that there's a "challenge that keeps coming up.
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"Too many Obama supporters think we don't need their money. Or they don't need to give now. ... I totally get why people would think that, but they're completely wrong."
He said the campaign needed money in these early stages to build neighborhood organizations. He sought to temper expectations that the campaign will raise $1 billion, as early estimates predicted.
Messina suggested that the campaign will rely more on small donors than the Republican operation does, noting that more than 98 percent of the campaign's contributions were $250 or less, "showing our grass-roots support across the country."
He said the campaign would have to fend off independent Republican political action committees that already were spending millions of unrestricted — and often undisclosed — dollars on behalf of Republican candidates.
"When we get an opponent, we'll be facing down their fundraising operation as well as all the outside groups that have already started spending money for them," Messina said. "What we have is grass roots."
Obama will have the support of at least two Democratic-leaning "super" PACs: Priorities USA Action, run by former White House staff aide Bill Burton, and American Bridge 21st Century.
Messina says in the video that the president "has a day job and his schedule just doesn't allow him to do very much fundraising," but that hasn't been an issue this week. Though White House officials say that Obama isn't yet "fully engaged" in the campaign, he visited his Chicago campaign headquarters for the first time Wednesday before attending a trio of fundraisers, including a dinner with a price tag of $35,800 per couple.
First lady Michelle Obama held two fundraisers Wednesday in Virginia, and Vice President Joe Biden was to cap a visit Thursday to Ohio with a fundraiser.
The Republican National Committee sent out an email noting that Obama had raised less in the second and third fundraising quarters than incumbent President George W. Bush had in 2003, saying that his "fundraising trend line must be worrying Chicago."
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