WASHINGTON--President Barack Obama's top fund-raisers are huddling in Chicago Friday to map strategy after Mitt Romney's finance team in May outraised them by about $17 million.
"We got beat," Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said in an email appeal sent out Thursday after the campaigns released May fund-raising totals.
Obama's National Finance Committee quarterly meeting is at the Renaissance Blackstone in the South Loop Friday. I've learned that the top honchos of the main SuperPac helping Obama -- Bill Burton and Paul Begala of Priorities USA Action -- are in Chicago to piggyback on the NFC meeting and prospect for mega money from the deepest pockets on the Obama finance team while they are all in one city.
Both campaigns announced May fund-raising hauls and it was the gut-punch hit the Obama team had been bracing for:
The Romney campaign and the Republican National Committee raised $76.8 million. The Obama campaign and the Democratic National Committee raised more than $60 million -- up from $43.6 million in April and $53 million in March.
"The money is coming pretty easily," Ty Fahner, an Illinois Romney finance co-chair told me. "It's not a heavy ask these days."
While Romney may not win Illinois in November, he is taking a lot of big cash from Obama's home state: he returns to Chicago next Thursday for a major fund-raiser at the Public Chicago Hotel on the Near North Side -- with a sliding price tag, from $2,500 for a reception to $75,000 for a private dinner.
May was the first month Romney launched a joint fundraising effort with the Republican National Committee and the Obama forces said the big take was Romney just picking the low-hanging fruit.
"We knew this day would come," said Obama national press secretary Ben LaBolt in a conference call with reporters. "We anticipated that they would beat us this month. We are focused on continuing to grow our donor base."
LaBolt said the May figures "should serve as a clarion call to our supporters and our donors to give now and give again so that not only can we be on the air, but can we build the largest grass roots campaign in history across the country."
Obama and the DNC raised about $745 million for his 2008 presidential campaign and with the May cash -- including $15 million from a fund-raiser at actor/activist George Clooney's home -- the take is up to about $460 million so far for 2012.
Neither campaign disclosed more details, which will come in Federal Election Commission reports due June 20.
Obama's National Finance Committee members are what are known as bundlers -- who use their personal networks to get others to write campaign checks. Bundlers are vital to campaigns and political party committees backing federal candidates because there are federal limits to campaign donations. A reason the non-regulated SuperPacs are so potent is the sky-is-the-limit when it comes to contributions.
Obama's bundlers on Thursday night were scheduled to be hosted by Vicki Heyman, an Illinois Obama Finance co-chair. On Friday, they will receive a series of high-level briefings at the Blackstone meeting, on the campaign air and ground game, opinion research, digital fund-raising, outreach, voter registration and election day legal issues. Romney's campaign -- outside of a bare legal minimum -- refuses to disclose the names of its bundlers.