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Obama recruits more big money 'bundlers'

The number of donors who raise big money for President Barack Obama jumped in the last three months as he builds a war chest for what will likely be the costliest presidential election ever.
/ Source: msnbc.com news services

The number of donors who raise big money for President Barack Obama jumped in the last three months as he builds a war chest for what will likely be the costliest presidential election ever.

At least 41 people have raised at least half a million dollars for the president, compared to 27 in Obama's first report, according to an analysis of campaign data released Friday.

The big donors, known as "bundlers," are typically well-connected people who pledge to gather tens of thousands of dollars for a candidate.

Former Goldman Sachs executive Jon Corzine and Dreamworks Animation chief executive executive Jeffrey Katzenberg are on Obama's elite list and raised $500,000 or more.

The president's campaign finance report shows he can still pull in major cash despite a stagnant economy, dipping approval ratings and grumblings among some liberal supporters that he has not done enough for their cause.

While still keeping ties to his famed small donor operation, Obama is relying heavily on major donors early on to finance a campaign that is likely to break records in spending, according to Anthony Corrado, a campaign finance expert at Colby College in Maine.

"The emphasis has been on doing larger dollar fundraising events particularly asking for $2,500," Corrado said. "Events like this help him to raise substantial amounts of money for the campaign allowing him to exceed his pace for 2007."

GOP ahead in polls
Obama and the Democratic National Committee have raised more than $150 million so far for his bid for a second term, far outstripping Obama's Republican rivals.

But fundraising prowess doesn't guarantee victory for the incumbent, who is fighting for re-election amid a economic stagnation and high unemployment.

Opinion polls show that Obama will have a tough time winning re-election next year. A Gallup poll released on Friday showed that U.S. registered voters, by 46 percent to 38 percent, are more likely to vote for an unnamed Republican presidential candidate than for Obama in 2012. Obama recently called himself the "underdog" in the race.

Bundlers raised about a third of Obama's war chest so far.

Earlier on Friday, Republican Mitt Romney posted $14 million for the quarter, second to fellow Republican Texas Governor Rick Perry's $17 million. Obama's comparable fundraising figure for the three months was $43 million.

Obama voluntarily releases a list of bundlers. No other major candidate has done so.

The president regularly brings in more than $1 million in a single evening of fundraising, as supporters donate the legal maximum of $35,800 to his campaign and the Democratic party for the chance to have dinner and take a picture with the president.

UBS executive Robert Wolf and hedge fund executive Orin Kramer are also big Obama fundraisers.

'Doing well with small donors'
At least 40 percent of all the money raised by the Obama campaign and the Democratic National Committee last quarter came from those giving in increments of $200 or less.

The Obama campaign has been touting its connections to mainstream Americans who send smaller checks, calling itself a grassroots effort.

"They are still doing well with small donors," said Darrell West, director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution, a thank tank.

The campaign said that in the third quarter about 600,000 people donated to the campaign.

Much has been made of dipping support among Wall Street for Obama. Some financial executives, including hedge fund managers, have complained about Obama's tax and financial regulation policies and his comments about the wealthy, at times calling them "fat cats."

In the second quarter, more Wall Street money did flow to Romney, who has deep ties there. Still, Obama boosted the number of bundlers with Wall Street ties in that period.

The Republican candidates' reports, due Saturday, offer the first broad look at their financial health.

They are the first official tallies of donations and expenses for contenders Perry, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and businessman Herman Cain, who said he raised $2.8 million this quarter.

Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, had nearly $15 million on hand in addition to the roughly $14 million in contributions during the July-September period that he reported Friday.

Perry, who briefly surged to the top of the Republican presidential field this summer, has roughly the same in the bank.

Not counting major support from Republican-leaning super political action committees, the virtual tie between Romney and Perry for cash on hand means the two have similar amounts to spend on ads and travel just months before heading into key primary states.

Perry is expected to dig into his campaign funds to buy TV ads to Romney's record on health care, abortion, gay rights and job creation. His campaign suggested this week that the moment for a barrage of attack ads was near.

Romney, the former governor of a predominantly Democratic state, has been attacked for his shifting positions on social issues that are held dear by conservative voters who dominate the Republican primary season.