POLITICS

Obama lags behind Romney in Virginia fundraising

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Politics,Local,Virginia,Steve Contorno

President Obama is not just battling for the Virginia voters he won handily in 2008, but is struggling to keep pace with his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, in the race for campaign cash.

Obama held a nearly 2-to-1 cash advantage among Virginia campaign contributors in 2008 over then-Republican nominee Sen. John McCain. But less than three months out from Election Day, Obama is trailing Romney in Virginia fundraising.

By the end of June, Romney's campaign raised $4.5 million in Virginia, compared with the $4.2 million Obama raised, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks federal campaign spending.

Romney is outraising Obama even in traditionally Democratic Northern Virginia, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, a nonpartisan campaign watchdog. Romney has raised $1.35 million so far in Northern Virginia, while Obama has raised $1.14 million there. For both candidates, a large chunk of the money they're raising in Virginia comes from the same place: McLean.

Romney also raised more than Obama in Hampton Roads and Richmond, two other hubs of the state's so-called Golden Crescent, where most of the state's residents live.

Romney's campaign said his fundraising edge is evidence that the pivotal swing state is ready to embrace him and oust Obama.

"Virginians are tired of waiting for President Obama to deliver on his campaign promises, and they know Mitt Romney will put jobs first, unleash Virginia's energy resources and keep our military strong," said Curt Cashour, a spokesman for Romney's Virginia campaign. "That's why energy, enthusiasm and support continue to grow for the Romney-Ryan ticket in Virginia and across the country."

For Obama, fundraising in Virginia has fallen behind the pace he set four years ago when he was battling to become America's first black president. He raised $6.8 million from Virginians by end of June that year, campaign finance filings show, but it's unclear whether he can generate that same kind of excitement a second time around.

"People were very excited about the prospect of electing Obama in 2008, and a real challenge is to rekindle a comparable level of enthusiasm," said Stephen Farnsworth, a political science professor at the University of Mary Washington. "It's an enthusiasm that relates to both the campaign workers and the donors."

The Obama campaign downplays Romney's fundraising edge, saying its army of small donors will trump Republicans' heavy spending at the polls Nov. 6.

"We fully expect to get outspent on the airwaves this year," said one Obama campaign official. "The strength of this campaign has always been on the ground, and that's why our team has been working in Virginia, recruiting volunteers, organizing supporters and building the largest grassroots campaign in history."

The battle for Virginia cash continues. Romney's vice presidential pick, Paul Ryan, was in Arlington on Friday for a $15,000-a-head fundraiser.

scontorno@washingtonexaminer.com

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