FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. – Democrat Barack Obama raised a staggering $150 million in September, shattering all previous fundraising records and dwarfing the amount raised by Republican presidential nominee John McCain.
Obama made campaign finance history Sunday by reporting a take more than double his record-breaking collections of $62 million in August – on a day he also picked up a prized endorsement from former Secretary of State Colin Powell, once considered a possible McCain running mate.
McCain pointed out that he has the endorsement of four other former secretaries of state. Still, he described himself as the “underdog” of a very tight race, and immediately attacked Obama’s decision not to accept the limits of public campaign financing and the “new flood of spending” that decision has set off. Obama raised money last month at the rate of $5 million per day.
“The American people should know where every penny came from,” McCain said on FOX News Sunday. “They know where every penny of my campaign contributions came from.”
A top aide to Obama said the candidate is now finished attending fundraisers. He will depend almost exclusively on his Internet donors while he concentrates on campaigning in the remaining two weeks of the race.
Capitalizing on the Powell endorsement while addressing a crowd in Fayetteville, N.C., filled with families from nearby Ft. Bragg, Obama accused Republicans of trying to make “a big election about small things.”
“Colin Powell reminded us of what’s at stake in this election, for America and for the world,” Obama said. “He reminded us that at a defining moment like this, we don’t have the luxury of relying on the same political games and the same political tactics that have been used in so many elections to divide us from one another and make us afraid of one another.”
The Powell endorsement is a sign of Obama’s momentum and may add another gust of wind at his back. Word of his support comes as Obama surges in national polls and aggressively challenges McCain on his own territory.
Obama’s Sunday rally took place during a tour of Republican states for the Democratic nominee. Over the weekend, he drew crowds of 100,000 to the Gateway Arch in St. Louis and 75,000 in Kansas City, Mo., muscular turnouts in a state that went for George W. Bush both times.
Today he heads for Florida, a must-win state for McCain. As he takes on the Republican in battleground states like Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Iowa, Indiana, Ohio and West Virginia, Obama has much more money to burn.
Obama has raised more than $600 million since the start of his presidential bid, a stunning amount in historical terms and in its relationship to his Republican opponent. McCain’s decision to take public financing in the general election limits his spending to $84 million for the fall, while Obama is expected to spend in excess of $300 million on the general election.
Speaking to Chris Wallace on the FOX show, McCain complained that Obama won’t have to detail the source of the small donations.
“There’s $200 million of those campaign contributions, there’s no record,” McCain said. “They’re not reported. You can report online now … $200 million that we don’t know where the money came from. A lot of strange things (are) going on in this campaign.”
Obama campaign manager David Plouffe did not detail the contributions, beyond saying that the campaign had added 632,000 new donors to its rolls and that the average donation for the month was less than $100.
“What’s healthy for democracy is people sending their contributions in $5 and $10 amounts,” Obama strategist David Axelrod said. “It’s campaign finance reform on the natural. The more we can encourage people to contribute like that, the better.”
Rhonda Quador, an Army wife, drew roars from the military families in the crowd with her introduction of Obama on Sunday.
“I know what it’s like to take care of children who long for their fathers and mothers,” she said. “I have to balance work and being a mother … while trying to distract my daughters from their father’s long deployments.”
But it wasn’t all applause and love for Obama in this Southern state. At lunchtime, he stopped at the Cape Fear BBQ and Chicken restaurant, where one of the diners began yelling “Socialist, socialist, socialist!” at him.
When Obama later tried to shake hands with the woman, 54-year-old Diane Fanning, she refused.
Other diners at her table were more hospitable. Lenox Bramble, the man next to Fanning, admonished her to “be civil. Be courteous.”
Still, Bramble said he wasn’t voting for Obama because in his opinion he doesn’t have enough experience.
Bramble’s wife, Kit, said she had been a conservative Republican for decades and won’t vote for Obama, either.