By Eric Johnson
CHICAGO (Reuters) - President Barack Obama's campaign manager on Thursday rejected speculation that the president's 2012 re-election effort will raise $1 billion, saying the goal is to build a "real grassroots" operation.
Democratic Party and Obama campaign officials have railed for months against the notion that the campaign aims to raise $1 billion to finance the president's re-election effort. But a Democratic official said earlier this year the goal was in excess of about $750 million, the record sum Obama collected in 2008 for his first presidential campaign.
The Obama campaign has identified more than 40 ways to get the electoral votes necessary to win the November 2012 election against the eventual Republican nominee, campaign chief Jim Messina said in a video to supporters. The video presented strategies for collecting the 270 electoral votes that Obama needs to win the election.
"People have speculated that this is a billion dollar campaign. That's bullshit," said Messina, a former White House deputy chief of staff who has been described as having a short temper.
"We don't take PAC (political action committee) money unlike our opponents. We fund this campaign in contributions of three dollars or five dollars or whatever you can do to help us expand the map, to put more people on the ground, to build a real grassroots campaign that is going to be the difference between winning and losing," Messina added.
The Obama campaign excelled at persuading small donors to contribute in 2008 when he won the White House, and Obama was keeping that up so far in his 2012 re-election bid with about 98 percent of donations in increments of $250 or less, the campaign said in mid-October when it last filed its quarterly fund-raising figures.
The campaign and Democrats do rely on big-money donations, with 357 top fundraisers directing at least $55.9 million toward Obama's re-election effort, money that goes into the coffers of his campaign as well as the Democratic National Committee, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
The campaign does benefit from a PAC, called Priorities USA Action, which was formed in April by former White House spokesman Bill Burton and former White House aide Sean Sweeney. The PAC raises money and conducts supporter and media outreach to benefit the campaign.
Together with the Democratic National Committee, the campaign has raised roughly $155 million through the end of September. The campaign seeks to raise $60 million in the final three months of 2011 to benefit the re-election bid and the Democratic party, a campaign official said last week.
If it hits that public goal, which is expected, they will end a non-election year having raised more than $200 million dollars without a specific Republican nominee to provide the contrast the campaign will use to rally supporters.
In an email to supporters on Thursday, Messina said "chatter from the other side about the President's so-called 'billion-dollar war chest'" is designed to turn people off from politics and tell supporters small-dollar donations do not matter.
"Here's the truth: $3 and $10 donations have powered this organization from the start," Messina said as the campaign tries to meet its end-of-year fundraising goals by Saturday. "And we measure our success not by how many dollars we raise, but by how many people are inspired to own a piece of this campaign."
(Reporting By Eric Johnson)