By JIM KUHNHENN and KEN THOMAS, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Mitt Romney outraised President Barack Obama in May, the first time the Republican presidential challenger has jumped ahead of Obama and his prodigious fundraising apparatus. The numbers illustrate how Romney and the Republican Party have jelled as a force after a protracted GOP primary.
Romney and his party raised more than $76 million last month, the campaign said Thursday. Obama's campaign reported that it and the Democratic Party raised $60 million for the month.
Obama, forced onto the defensive by lackluster employment numbers, also launched a new television ad Thursday in nine key election-year states targeting Congress and blaming lawmakers for not acting on his jobs proposals. The approach represents an expanded ad focus for Obama, who had been going after Romney.
The fundraising numbers and Obama's new ad signal a new stage in the campaign as a resurgent Romney capitalizes on his emergence as the GOP's standard-bearer and as Obama is forced to confront the political implications of a weak economic recovery.
For Romney, the latest figure represents a significant jump in fundraising. He and the GOP brought in $40 million in April, just short of the $43.6 million the Democratic president and his party raised that month. What's more, Romney is getting a significant boost from Republican-leaning super PACs that have raised far more and spent far more than their Democratic-leaning counterparts.
Romney, stepping up his criticism of Obama, campaigned and was raising money Thursday in Missouri. In a speech at a factory in St. Louis, Romney accused Obama not only of a failure of policy, but of "a moral failure of tragic proportions."
Obama was mixing more fundraising with official business Thursday as he wrapped up a two-day West Coast trip that included four fundraisers on Wednesday. He started the day under a sweltering sun in the Los Angeles area at a breakfast fundraiser for about 300 people. Tickets started at $2,500.
The president acknowledged that economic growth and jobs haven't come fast enough. But he said the election also is about future Supreme Court nominations, funding for women's health centers, and tackling the nation's debt and deficit.
"The other side, they're always talking about debt and deficits, which I find interesting because they're always the ones that run up the debt and deficit, saying we don't care about deficits until Democrats get into office," he said.
Obama campaign officials noted that Romney's fundraising surge could be temporary and that it reflects his recently sealed standing as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, which allows him to raise more general election money. It also lets him raise money jointly for his campaign and for the Republican Party. The Obama officials pointed out that Democratic presidential challenger John Kerry briefly experienced a similar surge in fundraising over President George W. Bush in the spring of 2004 after Kerry had locked up the nomination.
"We knew this day would come," said Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt.
Obama has been an active fundraiser and lately has stepped up the number of events he holds with donors. As of Thursday, the president has done 153 fundraisers since filing as a candidate for re-election on April 4, 2011, according to statistics kept by CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller. During same period in the 2004 election cycle, Bush had participated in 79 fundraisers.
In all, Obama and the Democratic National Committee and other state-focused funds have hauled in more than $500 million during the 2012 election campaign, compared to more than $480 million for Romney and the Republican Party.
The Romney campaign reported that the party and the campaign had $107 million cash on hand at the end of May. Obama's campaign did not list its comparable figure on Thursday, but last month it reported $115 million in the bank through the end of April, with the Democratic National Committee listing $24 million in hand.
Obama's new ad does not mention congressional Republicans, but its target is clear. Republicans have proposed their own measures aimed at creating jobs and have blocked several Obama proposals to promote hiring of teachers and police officers, and to increase infrastructure projects. Obama has proposed paying for those measures with tax increases on wealthier taxpayers, an idea Republicans reject.
The ad is airing in the key presidential election states of Colorado, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The campaign declined to reveal how much it was spending on the ads, saying only that it was a "significant" purchase of air time.
Associated Press writers Philip Elliott, Julie Pace and Kasie Hunt contributed to this report.