From as little as $2 to more than $2,000, individual donations are pouring into the presidential campaigns at extraordinary rates.
We've seen more fundraising than we've ever seen before," said Bill Allison of the Sunlight Foundation, a non-partisan government watchdog group. President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney opted out of federal campaign money making this the first presidential election where private money is exclusively funding both candidates.
Based on campaign finance reports dated July 31, 2012, President Barack Obama has raised $347 million dollars from private money, a hefty margin over Governor Mitt Romney's $192 million. But political analysts say the donation disparity between the two candidates doesn't mean the Republicans are in trouble. Outside fundraising for Romney from super political action committees or "super PACS" are outpacing the top Democratic super PAC, Priorities USA Action, more than five to one.
"For Romney, he's gotten a tremendous amount of support from the financial, insurance and real estate sector," said Allison. The top industries supporting Obama include Hollywood, law firms and the education, technology and health fields.
"It's really staggering that Obama has raised half of his money from those giving $200 or less," said Michael Beckel from the Center for Public Integrity, a non-partisan, non-profit news organization. Beckel added Romney has received more than half of his donations in the amount of $2,000 or more.
Gender is generating money differently for both campaigns. Forty-four percent of Mr. Obama's funds have come from women compared to 56 percent from men. But women aren't as generous to Romney. Private money from women make up just 29 percent of Romney's funds, but men are responsible for 70 percent.
Campaigns are spending these donations on TV ads, voter registration drives, travel, polling and even data mining. "What they're doing is collecting all sorts of information on voters – their buying habits, their past voter registration," said Allison who added that campaigns have become much more sophisticated in identifying potential donors in hopes of getting more people to open up their wallets.