Obama Trumps Romney With Small Donors

In the scramble for campaign cash, President Obama has proved once again that he's king,  at least among  American small-dollar donors.

Nearly half  -  48 percent - of Obama's $118 million haul in 2011 came from individuals giving $200 or less, according to a new analysis by the Campaign Finance Institute, a nonpartisan group.

Small-donors made up only 9 percent of the 2011 fundraising total for Mitt Romney.

But it's on the other end of the donor spectrum that Romney holds more sway: He gathered 82 percent of his funds from donors giving  $1,000 or more, the Campaign Finance Institute found.  Those high-dollar donors comprise just 28 percent of Obama's total.

Looked at in absolute sums, Obama raised more money from small donors last year - $56.7 million to $56.3 million - than Romney collected from all donors combined.

Michael Malbin, executive director of the Campaign Finance Institute, said the figures could represent a significant advantage for Obama beyond the bottom line.

"Because small donors can give again, and may be willing to serve as campaign volunteers, successful small-donor fundraising can serve a political purpose that goes well beyond the reported dollars," Malbin said in a statement.

Obama isn't the only candidate relying on small donations to play a major supporting role in his campaign.

Newt Gingrich received $6 million, or 49 percent of his fundraising total, from contributors giving $200 or less in 2011. Ron Paul netted $12 million, or 48 percent of his total, while Rick Santorum gathered $700,000 or 32 percent of his reported total last year.

The Obama campaign said it had received contributions from more than 1.3 million donors with the average donation being $55.

UPDATE: A Romney campaign spokesperson emails to suggest that the CFI report paints an inaccurate picture. In the 4th quarter, 84 percent of all donations to the Romney campaign were $250 or less, the official said.

By way of comparison, the Obama campaign says 98 percent of all its donations received were $250 or less.

However, measuring contributions - or, increments of giving - only presents a partial picture of a candidate's donor base, since many donors give multiple times.

The CFI report described above presents analysis of small donors themselves, each giving "in aggregate" $200 or less to the candidate in 2011.