Romney bests Obama in May fundraising, raising nearly $77 million

Mitt Romney outraised President Barack Obama by nearly $17 million in May, the first time the Republican nominee has bested his Democratic opponent in 2012 fundraising.

The GOP candidate brought in a combined $76.8 million last month for his campaign and the Romney Victory Fund, a joint account between the Romney campaign and the Republican National Committee. By comparison, the Obama campaign announced it had raised roughly $60 million in May for the campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

May's total marks Romney's best fundraising month to date—assisted by the fact that it was his first full month to raise funds jointly with the RNC. While Obama has been raising money for both his campaign and the DNC for months, the presumptive Republican nominee merged fundraising operations with the RNC only in mid-April. The move allows him to raise as much as $75,000 apiece from individuals, who write checks not just to the RNC and the Romney campaign but to a series of accounts set up with state parties.

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In April, Romney nearly matched Obama's fundraising, raising $40 million to Obama's $44 million, but Romney aides said at the time that numbers could have been better had Romney set up joint fundraising with the RNC sooner.

In a statement Thursday, Spencer Zwick, Romney's national finance chairman, said the campaign was "encouraged" by what the campaign described as a "broad range of voters"—though it was unclear how the campaign knows that. Donors aren't required to list which political party they belong to when writing checks to campaigns.

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"It is clear that people aren't willing to buy into 'hope and change' again," Zwick said in a statement. "Voters are making an investment because they believe that it will benefit the country."

But Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt simultaneously played down Romney's fundraising boom — "we knew this day would come" — and sounded an alarm for Democrats.

"That should serve as a clarion call to our supporters and our donors," LaBolt told reporters on a conference call, emphasizing that Romney's joint fundraising committee with the RNC was allowing some of Romney's donors to write another round of checks.

"We anticipated that they would beat us this month," but the Obama campaign will focus on "growing our donor base," LaBolt said.

The Romney campaign says it raised $12 million in donations of $250 or less in May, and 93 percent of its individual donors overall gave $250 or less. The campaign and the RNC ended May with $107 million cash on hand.

The Obama campaign has not yet announced how much cash it had in the bank as of May 31.

Both campaigns are likely to post huge June fundraising totals as well. According to his campaign, Romney raised at least $15 million on a fundraising swing through Texas this week—one of the biggest hauls of his campaign so far. Meanwhile, Obama raised nearly $4 million in a series of fundraisers with Bill Clinton in New York on Monday and brought in more than $5 million from California fundraisers on Wednesday.

Olivier Knox contributed reporting to this story.