Barack Obama
Carlos Osorio  /  AP
President Barack Obama waves after speaking at the General Motors Orion assembly plant with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in Orion Township, Mich., on Friday.
updated 10/16/2011 10:20:28 AM ET 2011-10-16T14:20:28

President Barack Obama has shored up support from mid-level donors in some of the most economically distraught areas of the country, even as his Republican challengers have made jobs a central issue heading into next year's election.

An Associated Press analysis of Obama's fundraising since April found his supporters opened their wallets more often this election cycle in places with the worst unemployment rates. That's compared with the same period four years ago, just months before the country was thrust into a major recession.

Story: Obama raises more than $70 million

The new numbers suggest GOP candidates will have to make a harder sell on the gravity of the nation's 9.1 percent unemployment rate, an issue that has bedeviled Obama throughout his term.

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Republicans in Congress have opposed the White House on specifics, especially tax increases, in a jobs bill aimed at pulling the economy out of a nosedive.

While Obama reported this week his campaign and the Democratic party raised a combined $70 million for his re-election bid, similar fundraising numbers totals for the GOP field point to growing support for candidates promising to change the country's direction.

Story: Finance reports show gap between candidates

Republican contenders raised a total of roughly $52 million, with Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney taking the lead in drawing support from across the country.

Republican candidates have missed few chances in recent weeks to point fingers at Obama and his jobs record.

"Right now, America's in crisis," said Romney at an Oct. 11 Republican debate devoted exclusively to the economy. "You want to have someone who's smart, who has experience, who knows how the financial services sector works, who knows how to protect American jobs — and I do. I've done it."

Among Obama's supporters, however, there has been an uptick in donations from both Democratic- and Republican-leaning counties, even as more than one in 10 people are out of work in those places.

Story: Obama recruits more big money 'bundlers'

In the Detroit area, where unemployment has exceeded 14 percent, supporters wrote hundreds of more checks — albeit in smaller amounts when adjusting for inflation — to Obama's campaign than the same period in 2007.

The AP's review drew upon unemployment figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and Census Bureau estimates, excluding donations from interest groups. Although campaign finance reports don't capture donors who gave less than $200 per election cycle, the donations reflect in part the attitudes among supports who give in the $200 to $2,500 range, making up nearly 40 percent of Obama's fundraising this period.

"I believe in the ideas that he has for the country," said donor Barbara Weeda, a 70-year-old retiree from Joshua Tree, Calif., home to San Bernardino county and its 13 percent jobless rate. "How else is he going to get elected than to just dig in and help as much as you can?" she said, saddened at what she sees as a lack of cooperation in Washington negotiating a jobs bill.

The AP's analysis found not only a broadening of support for Obama — he received cash for the first time from parts of the Plains, the Rockies and the Midwest — but also a wide appeal for top GOP contenders Romney and Perry.

Story: The 2012 GOP presidential field

Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said in an email to supporters this week that more than 600,000 people donated to the campaign since July, more than the previous three-month cycle. "Getting to a million grassroots donors isn't just a huge accomplishment this early in the campaign. It's our answer to our opponents, the press, and anyone who wants to know whether the president's supporters have his back," he said.

Campaign finance reports released Friday and Saturday revealed the first complete picture of the presidential field, showing a haves and have-nots among the Republican candidates. Romney and Perry brought in more than $30 million in combined contributions; other candidates raised remarkably less, and some were mired in debt.

Still, the campaign figures didn't capture the tens of millions raised by new, outside groups known as super political action committees, which can collect unlimited amounts of money to influence elections. Obama and leading GOP candidates all have super PACs working in their favor, not counting groups like GOP-leaning American Crossroads that have raised hundreds of millions ahead of the general election.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Money talks in 2012 race

  1. Closed captioning of: Money talks in 2012 race

    >>> as the presidential campaign heats up, today was the deadline for the candidates to report on their fundraising for the last three months. beyond their messages, the race for money will largely determine how far the candidates can go. nbc's mike viquera reports.

    >> reporter: they say money isn't everything. but in politics it can be.

    >> we raised about $2.8 million.

    >> reporter: that's why new gop frontrunner herman cain went to tennessee.

    >> we're going to have a million dollar --

    >> reporter: in the first big d disclosure day, cain 's numbers are coming up front. rick perry reports he took in about $17 million and has $15 million in cash on hand. behind is mitt romney , he raised over 14 million with about the same amount in the bank. then ron paul who raised 8.2. after that a big dropoff to cain 's 2.8. the totals are one important sign of a campaign's health and staying power . experts say the surging cain , who lacks the big organization and has refused to even name key advisors, must raise his money game as the first primaries approach.

    >> for him to be able to compete for a long period of time, he's going to have to raise a considerable amount more money to be able to fund an organization and to be able to fund those later tv ads.

    >> reporter: with the democratic field all to himself, president obama 's take dwarfs the gop contenders raking in 42 million for his campaign over the past three months. with more than 61 million in his war chest , experts say in the end it will be the costliest campaign ever.

    >> one of the advantage es the president has is the ability to raise money . i don't know if he'll get to 1 billion but he'll have plenty of money to spend to fight the republican nominated against him.

    >> reporter: one other gop contender michele bachmann divulged her numbers. about a million ahead of herman cain . one other aspect of this, lester, this year the so-called superpac skrkz, president obama has one. many times they don't have to disclose their donors. some people expect them to match the candidates dollar for dollar in their spending. it adds a whole new dimension to this presidential race as well with a lot more money. lester?


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