WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama outraised Republican challenger Mitt Romney in Arizona by more than $300,000 for the second consecutive month, according to Federal Election Commission filings for September.
The fundraising gap was similar in August, with Obama raising $713,000 to Romney’s $412,000.
Romney still holds the overall lead for fundraising in Arizona, a reliably red state, at $5.6 million to Obama’s $4.7 million, though much of that money arrived during the primary season.
And with most polls projecting Romney to win Arizona by a comfortable margin, Republicans brushed off the most-recent fundraising numbers.
“Arizona isn’t a swing state – it’s a fairly Republican state. If you look at any poll, it’s going to be favoring Gov. Romney,” said Tim Sifert, spokesman for the Arizona Republican Party.
He said Romney voters may have transitioned from just donating money to donating time.
“The fundraising is important but it’s only a part of the total campaign,” Sifert said.
But Mahen Gunaratna, Obama for America spokesman for the Arizona campaign, said modest contributions are the building blocks of the president’s success.
“We’re proud of our strong base of small donors and grass-roots volunteers throughout the state,” Gunaratna said in an email.
“We don’t have billionaires writing checks worth millions of dollars,” he said. “What we do have are millions of grass-roots donors, including thousands of Arizonans, who are combating the huge spending advantage that Gov. Romney has over the middle class.”
But without knowing the number of donors, it is difficult to interpret a spike in campaign contributions so close to the election, said Jennifer Steen, a political science professor at Arizona State University.
“Romney did well in fundraising early, so he may have maxed out what Arizonans are going to contribute,” Steen said. “Obama voters may have more to contribute, or they may have waited to give.”
A late surge in campaign donations could signify a shift toward Obama by independents in Arizona or a sense that Republicans do not regard the state as threatened.
“If Obama’s $1 million all came in $2,500 chunks, and Romney’s came in $10 chunks, Romney would have more people supporting him,” Steen said. “It’s mathematically possible for Obama to have raised this from a much smaller number of people.”
Sifert noted that there “are many more ways to help your favorite candidate than just donating cash.”
“Plenty of our Republican volunteers donate their time – canvassing neighborhoods, helping Gov. Romney with his campaign as well as supporting other candidates throughout the state,” he said.
Spending advantage, like fundraising numbers, is difficult to measure. FEC reports indicate that Obama ended September with $99.3 million cash on hand, compared to the Romney campaign’s $63.1 million.
Even then, Steen cautioned against equating a candidate’s balance sheet with total spending on behalf of that candidate, given the massive amounts being spent this year by independent groups such as super PACs. Such independent expenditures are not reported as donations to the campaign.
In the shadow of those sums, the Arizona fundraising imbalance seems small, Steen said.
“A $300,000 gap in one state may be of no consequence in the overall campaign, given the multitude of players who spend at a level that dwarfs the campaign committees,” Steen said.