Senior Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod says he's "worried about complacency" among Democrats headed into the general election campaign, as recent reports show President Obama slipping from his from his record-setting 2008 fundraising pace, particularly among big-dollar donors.
"I know people get seduced because they watch the spectacle on the other side and they say, 'How can anybody on that side win…after witnessing these debates and this race to the right?' The truth is we need to prepare for a close contest," he said in an interview on MSNBC.
For the second consecutive month in February, the Obama campaign failed to match or exceed monthly fundraising totals of four years ago, when they reported raising $746 million for the entire campaign.
And while Obama's fundraising totals dwarf those of his Republican rivals both in absolute sums and number of donors, the president has received only half as many contributions of $2,000 or more than as he had at this point four years ago, and only a quarter as many as George W. Bush during his bid for re-election in 2004, according to an analysis of Federal Election Commission data by the Washington Post.
Obama and Democrats have raised more than $300 million for his re-election effort through February from more than 1.5 million donors.
"I'm proud that 98 percent of our contributions come from people who give $250 or less. I'm proud that our average donation is $55," Axelrod said. "I think Mitt Romney's comparable number on donations is 10 percent of his come from people who are $250 or less. It says something about the nature of the two campaigns."
Democratic strategists close to the Obama campaign and the pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA Action say some deep-pocket donors aren't yet convinced the expected match-up with Romney will be a close fight. And, they say, the U.S. economy's sluggish recovery has dampened some enthusiasm.
"We're not really running against Romney or Santorum, we're running against the environment, we're running against three tough years, four tough years really in the economy," Axelrod said. "We're running against a variety of things beyond the other candidates, and by definition we're a closely divided country politically. We won a massive victory four years ago and we got 53 percent of the vote, 47 percent voted for someone else. So by definition this is going to be a close race."