Cash looms large as Obama courts donors

(CBS News) WASHINGTON -- President Obama is halfway through a two-day fundraising swing through California.

His trip underlines the importance of money in the 2012 campaign.

It's also being criticized by Republicans who say the president is spending too much time with celebrity Democrats.

The money-raising trip took him to San Francisco and Los Angeles, two towns where he hasn't been a stranger in recent weeks and months, spending plenty of time with the wealthy and famous in the entertainment and tech communities.

But his campaign tweeted Thursday that 98 percent of its donations in May were less than $250.

Either way, it's all about the money.

Mr. Obama got a warm welcome from campaign donors in the Los Angeles gay community Wednesday night, a group he considers crucial to his re-election prospects.

"I could not be prouder of the work we've done on behalf of the LGBT community," Mr. Obama said.

Full coverage: Election 2012

During his speech, he ticked off accomplishments under his watch, such as ending the war in Iraq.

But he also warned the audience about what's ahead during the campaign, and why their donations matter, saying, "You're going to see hundreds of millions of dollars in negative ads, because the other side's not offering anything new."

To build a war chest that would enable him to counter those ads and run his campaign, Mr. Obama is spending two days on the West Coast to raise an expected $5 million.

He will have done 153 fundraisers since formally declaring his candidacy for re-election a little over a year ago - nearly double the number President Bush had done at the same point in 2004.

With the majority of outside super PAC dollars going to Republicans, raising money will be crucially important for Democrats in this election cycle.

In the Wisconsin recall election, unions spearheaded the effort to unseat Gov. Scott Walker after he successfully limited their power. But the union effort to get out the vote was overcome by the GOP advantage in money and TV advertising. Walker raised $30 million. His challenger, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, raised only $4 million.

Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., chair of the Democrats' campaign committee, warned that the Wisconsin results should be "a wake-up call" that the party needs money for TV ads to compete with the super PACs.

A California political power broker once put it this way: "Money is the mothers' milk of politics."

Four years ago, candidate Obama outspent his Republican opponent, Sen. John McCain by more than two-to-one - $730 million to $333 million.

To see Bill Plante's report, click on the video in the player above.

  • Bill Plante

    Bill Plante is a CBS News Senior White House Correspondent

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