* Obama campaign substantially broadens donor base
* Romney campaign still has more cash on hand
* Republican now free to spend money blocked in primary
* Overall, Obama and Democrats ahead in fundraising totals
By Jeff Mason and Sam Youngman
WASHINGTON/BOSTON, Sept 10 U.S. President Barack
Obama's campaign and Democratic allies raised more than $114
million in August, narrowly beating Republican rival Mitt Romney
for the first time in months as the race for the White House
approaches its final stretch.
Former Massachusetts Governor Romney and fellow Republicans
said on Monday they raised more than $111 million in August,
continuing a string of high-dollar hauls that leave him
well-equipped to contest the Nov. 6 election.
While Obama shattered fundraising records in 2008 after
becoming the first presidential candidate to opt out of a
federal matching funds system, Romney has outpaced him
significantly on the fundraising front since April.
That has added to a cash advantage on the Republican side
offered by the success of outside "Super PAC" groups that have
spent lavishly in support of the Republican candidate with
unlimited funds from millionaire donors.
In July, the Obama campaign raised $75 million to Romney's
$101 million. That discrepancy shifted in August, which marked
the first month when Obama's campaign, together with the
Democratic National Committee and affiliated groups, broke the
$100 million threshold this year.
Overall, too, Obama remains ahead in the race for cash. The
president and the Democratic party have raised a total of just
under $740 million this campaign season, compared with roughly
$630 million raised so far by Romney for his campaign and the
Republican party, according to news releases and disclosures.
The Democratic incumbent broadened his donor base last month
with more than 317,000 donors who had never given money before,
Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said in a statement. More
than 1.1 million donors in total gave to the Obama cause in
August and the average donation was $58, the campaign said.
"The key to fighting back against the special interests
writing limitless checks to support Mitt Romney is growing our
donor base, and we did substantially in the month of August,"
Messina said. "That is a critical down payment on the
organization we are building across the country - the largest
grassroots campaign in history."
Obama is counting on that grassroots "ground game" to help
make up for the cash advantage enjoyed by Romney, whose campaign
along with the Republican National Committee and state
Republican parties reported on Monday having about $168.5
million in cash left at their disposal at the end of last month.
Obama's campaign did not say how much cash it had on hand at
the end of August, but in July, Romney and the Republicans
enjoyed a $60 million cash-on-hand advantage over Obama and the
Democrats, who ended July with $127 million left in the bank.
HOMESTRETCH AD SWING
But the president's campaign has burned through money faster
than the Republican candidate, spending $58.5 million in July,
with about two-thirds of that going to advertising.
Republicans view the combination of Obama's high cash burn
rate and polls that show a tight race as evidence they have
withstood the advertising onslaught Obama's campaign launched
early in the year as Romney battled other Republicans for the
"This race is a dead heat, even after they have spent over
$100 million attacking Mitt Romney with negative ads," one
senior Romney adviser said on Sunday.
Obama's advisers say they are confident they spent their
campaign cash well by seeking to pinpoint Romney's weaknesses
over the summer months.
But the discrepancy in funds available for advertising in
the homestretch is a concern, especially now that Romney is also
free to spend the millions of dollars he raised during his
primary campaign, but legally could not spend before he formally
accepted his party's nomination on Aug. 30.
The Romney campaign demonstrated it was ready to begin
spending that cash late last week, the day after Obama himself
was officially nominated for re-election as president.
Republicans seized on a disappointing jobs report on Friday
morning, announcing they bought ad time in the key swing states
Obama won in 2008, but which are now in play. On the air in the
key states of Iowa, Virginia, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, New
Hampshire, Ohio and North Carolina, Romney was set to expand his
advertising to Wisconsin on Monday.
"What we very deliberately did, we held our powder and we
knew these jobs numbers were going to be a big moment," said one
Romney adviser. "And we loaded up to come back on Friday, and
we've gone up in a big way."
While Romney spent much of the summer fundraising, senior
adviser Kevin Madden indicated the Republican candidate would
shift his focus to spending more time with voters.
"We'll continue to do some fundraising throughout this
month, but I think we're in that critical phase where we're
trying to put our emphasis on voter contact and having the
governor do more retail campaigning," Madden said.
Obama's team believes the president has an advantage at
retail campaigning. He just finished a two-day bus trip of
Florida, which included chats with voters at local restaurants
and bars throughout the state.
Still, the Obama campaign sees Romney as having the
financial advantage and it urged supporters not to become
complacent after the successful August figure.
"No celebrating, because they're going to have an even
bigger September," Obama's campaign said via Twitter. "But now
we know we can match them, doing this our way."